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Former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui is urging Taiwan and Japan to develop a new model for bilateral exchanges based on cooperation between Taiwan and the Okinawa island of Ishigaki.

Describing Taiwan as Japan’s “lifeline,” Lee said Sunday that Taiwan and Japan are linked by fate and “should be closely working together.”

The cooperation model between Ishigaki and Taiwan serves as a sound example of bilateral collaboration, he said.

Lee, who is on Ishigaki for a five-day visit, said during a speech to around 500 people that Taiwan and Japan have laid a sound foundation for cooperation over the last century, and he hopes the two sides can deepen their cooperation in a new era where new challenges abound.

Lee said Ishigaki and Taiwan developed a close relationship during the Japanese colonial period, from 1895 to 1945.

During the 1930s, a significant number of Taiwanese farmers emigrated to Ishigaki, bringing with them water buffalo and skills for growing pineapple.

After World War II ended, the relationship between Taiwan and Ishigaki continued. Some Taiwanese immigrants decided to stay on and continued to work with other immigrants coming from Okinawa’s main island. Together, they revived Ishigaki’s pineapple industry in the 1950s.

The long history between Taiwan and Ishigaki sets a perfect example for bilateral interactions between Taiwan and Japan, Lee said.

Over the years, cooperation between Taiwan and Japan has expanded from agriculture to technology and other areas. As the Japanese government has proposed an economy policy focusing on the internet of things, or IOT, Lee said that Taiwan, which also plans to develop this industry, could consider establishing an IOT alliance with Japan.

The term refers to the industry of connecting devices and services to each other to allow the sharing of information and data.

Lee, who arrived Saturday on Ishigaki, will meet Monday with Taiwanese expatriates and visit on Tuesday a farmers association before returning Wednesday to Taiwan.

It is Lee’s eighth visit to Japan since leaving office. As Taiwan’s first directly elected president, Lee led the self-governed island from January 1988 to May 2000.

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