BEIJING – China said Thursday that Vice President Wang Qishan raised the politically sensitive Taiwan issue with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the previous day, a detail that was missing from an earlier Japanese account of their discussion.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, speaking at a regular news briefing, also revealed that Abe had assured Wang at the meeting in Tokyo that Japan “is willing to properly handle sensitive issues such as Taiwan.”
Hua’s remarks came as Abe has been pursuing a friendly approach to self-ruled, democratic Taiwan, which Communist Party-led China considers a renegade province awaiting reunification.
Beijing likely wants to ensure that Japan avoids rocking the boat — given how sensitive the Taiwan issue is to China — ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s scheduled visit to Japan as a state guest next spring amid a thaw in bilateral relations.
Earlier this month, Abe exchanged messages with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen after Japan was hit by Typhoon Hagibis, which triggered massive flooding and killed more than 80 people.
While Tsai tweeted in Japanese, “Japan is our most important friend. I’m always ready to help,” Abe responded in Chinese and Japanese, “To us, Taiwan is an important partner and friend sharing common basic values.”
Despite the absence of diplomatic ties, which were severed in 1972, the unofficial relationship between Taiwan and Japan remains robust.
Taiwan and mainland China have been governed separately since they split amid a civil war in 1949. Beijing has long endeavored to undermine Taipei’s quest for international recognition.
Wang visited Japan for Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement ceremony on Tuesday.