TAIPEI – Japan’s de facto embassy in Taiwan said it will change its name next month to make the semi-official organization more recognizable.
Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province, expressed displeasure with the move.
At a news conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called on Japan to “adhere to the one-China principle, properly deal with the Taiwan issue and don’t send any wrong message to Taiwan authorities and the international community. Don’t create new disturbances to China-Japan relations.”
Japan’s organization in Taiwan, the Interchange Association, said in a statement Wednesday that as of Jan. 1 it will be known as the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association. Its Chinese name has also been changed to add the names of Japan and Taiwan.
“The association will continue to play the role of a bridge between Japan and Taiwan, doing its utmost to move bilateral relations to the next level,” it said.
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the move, saying the new name reflects the organization’s substantive functions in Taiwan and the positive development of bilateral ties. In a statement, the ministry said Taiwan and Japan have maintained a close relationship over the years.
Japan is Taiwan’s third-largest trading partner and Taiwan is Japan’s fourth-largest trading partner. Bilateral trade surpassed $57.9 billion last year.
Tourism between the two countries has been rising. The combined tally of visits to each country came to 5.3 million last year and is projected to top 6 million this year.
Taiwan has been governed separately from mainland China since they split amid a civil war in 1949. The government in Beijing has long tried to diplomatically isolate the self-governed island of 24 million people.
Taiwan and Japan severed diplomatic ties in 1972, one year after the United Nations expelled “the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek” and recognized the People’s Republic of China as “the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations.”
Seeking to maintain unofficial relations with the Republic of China — the official name of Taiwan — Tokyo established the Interchange Association as its diplomatic mission in Taiwan.
A diplomatic source said that the name change is necessary because few people in Taiwan know what the association is or does.
A poll conducted by the organization this year indicated that only 14 percent of Taiwanese people surveyed said they knew about the association.
A ceremony to reveal the plaque bearing the new name is scheduled for Jan. 3.