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Japan Shies Away from New China-Taiwan Spat

By: Julio Barthson

Date Posted: 2000-02-27

The Government of Japan has up till now demonstrated great tact in its statements regarding the current row between China and its “renegade” province Taiwan. Careful not to antagonize China, the Government of Japan simply said in a statement on Tuesday that it hoped both Beijing and Taipei would find a peaceful solution to their most recent dispute.

According to most analysts, the current vociferous utterings by China, evidenced by the big Asian nation’s new threats to invade Taiwan, obviously place Japan in a delicate position. Japan has been trying its best to maintain a moral balance in its relations with both entities; that is, recognizing Communist China as the country with which to maintain its diplomatic relations, while pushing low profile economic ties with the island of Taiwan.

In a recent policy white paper, China's cabinet declared that Beijing would be forced to use “drastic measures, including military force” if Taiwan indefinitely delayed negotiations aimed at reuniting with the mainland. In view of the looming threat to regional peace and security, a Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ryuichiro Yamazaki, simply expressed the hope that both parties “will solve the issue in a peaceful way.” He also said that Tokyo had not yet fully analyzed the Chinese white paper.

In the past, China has threatened military action on Taiwan only if the island declared independence, or in the event of foreign invasion of the island. Japan, which invaded China from 1937 to 1945, has pledged to stick to a 1972 joint declaration with Beijing which expressly stipulates that Tokyo recognizes only one China - meaning Mainland China with capital in Beijing. Japan had to break diplomatic ties with Taiwan when it resumed normal relationships with China in 1972, though unofficial commercial and cultural contacts have been maintained at various levels.

Meanwhile, China has continually warned Japan not to include Taiwan in any of its mutual defense treaties with the United States - a warning which Prime Minister Obuchi obviously takes seriously.

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