National / Politics

Japan rejects speculation China protest prompted Taiwan quake message change

Kyodo

Tokyo denied Tuesday that a protest from China was behind a decision to drop the Taiwanese president’s name from the online version of a message sent by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week in response to a devastating earthquake.

Abe’s message of condolence and support was addressed to President Tsai Ing-wen when it was released to the media on Thursday, but her name was not present in the version subsequently uploaded to the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s website.

“It’s true that there was a protest by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, but … it’s not true that we altered (the message) in response to the Chinese protest,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference when asked about the omission.

“We changed it because we judged it would be appropriate to put up a message addressed to everyone in Taiwan,” the top government spokesman said.

Concerning the response to the Taiwan quake, China has expressed displeasure over Japan addressing Taiwan officials by their official titles, which Beijing claims violates the “One China” policy.

Taiwan and mainland China have been governed separately since they split in 1949 following a civil war. Beijing has since regarded Taiwan as a renegade province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

Japan severed official relations with Taiwan and established ties with Beijing in 1972.

In both versions of the message, Abe noted the support received from the people of Taiwan during the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster that devastated parts of the Tohoku region and said Tokyo was ready to “give whatever assistance is needed” after the quake struck the city of Hualien on Feb. 6.

In a poll released Monday by a Taiwanese political research group, nearly 76 percent of respondents said Japan is the country that has shown the most support for Taiwan since the quake. China came in second, selected by just 1.8 percent of the respondents.

The magnitude 6.4 quake severely damaged four buildings and killed 17 people, including one person listed as missing and presumed dead.