The reunion of Japanese Prime Minister Kishida and Taiwan’s family brings hope

Tseng Hsin-yi passes by a brick kiln on the corner of Yier Street in Keelung every morning on his way to buy breakfast. But a recent Saturday he stood up and took a selfie in front of the house.

The program of house, and stucco ornaments and arcades, suddenly became known Fumio Kishida was elected the 100th Prime Minister of Japan this month. More than a hundred years ago, his grandfather owned a business from the area northeast of Taipei.

“I did not know the history of the building, and I could not imagine that we were close to the Prime Minister of Japan, so to speak,” said Tseng, an accountant living nearby.

Trouble to climb – and the revelation that his family has a reputation in Keelung – has sparked controversy, highlighting special ties in Taiwan with their former colonial master and the hopes of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party to forge closer ties with Tokyo.

“Japan has 100 ministers, so it is imperative that one of them has such a reputation. For us, this represents a special partnership, “said Tsai Shih-ying, a member of the DPP party in Keelung who is serving on the parliamentary foreign security committee and wants to be mayor of the city next year.

Japan and Taiwan have no bilateral relations but growing concerns in China have been strengthened nations are approaching, with Tokyo directly linking Taipei’s security with its recent merit white protective paper.

In 1895, after the Chinese Qing Dynasty invaded Taiwan to Japan following their conquest in the First Sino-Japan War, Ikutaro Kishida arrived in Keelung, as thousands of other Japanese would pour into Taiwan, attracted by economic opportunities.

He opened the Kishida Kimono Shop and then the neighboring Kishida Coffee Club, which he operated for at least four years, according to the Keelung government. Masaki, the grandfather of the Prime Minister, lived in the first years of his life in the city.

Tsai Shih-Ying, a member of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan, stood in front of a house in Keelung when Ikutaro Kishida, the grandfather of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, opened a kimono shop in 1895 © Kathrin Hille / FT

It is not clear when the family left Keelung and why. But Taiwanese politicians believe his history provides an opportunity.

“We hope we will have the opportunity to invite the Kishida family to visit in the future, and I will invite them,” said Tsai, who has spearheaded efforts to strengthen relations with Japan in the first round of talks. security negotiations between the DPP and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in Japan in August.

“We know that as Prime Minister of Japan, it would be difficult for him to travel to Taiwan, but perhaps through his family there could be a chance.”

Unlike other countries that were persecuted and attacked by Japan in World War II, Taiwan has good memories. Japan ruled the island for 50 years and laid the foundations of a modern economy by building the necessary infrastructure and enacting laws.

When he came to power, the Japanese government began to expand and reform the Keelung port. The area east of the port where the Kishida shopping center was located was built in the modern commercial area of ​​Taiwan and came to be known as the “Ginza of Keelung”, a well-known place in Tokyo.

Kishida’s appointment as Prime Minister has encouraged Taipei that Tokyo will continue to see the importance of Taiwan in its security.

“Looking [former prime minister Shinzo] The Abe Kishida faction and its nominees appear to be continuing their engagement with Taiwan, “said a Taiwanese government official.

Taku Otsuka, an LDP security adviser who took part in the party security talks, said the Taiwan Strait incident could have implications for the Japanese Defense Force because it affects the country’s security. “As such, it is important to connect with Taiwan,” he added.

U.S. warships and Japanese naval forces last month after a spate of Chinese warplanes from Taiwan escalated tensions in the region

U.S. warships and Japanese naval forces last month after a spate of Chinese warplanes from Taiwan escalated tensions in the region © Haydn N. Smith / US Navy via AP

Taiwanese authorities also hope that Japan will help ask to enter Frequent and Advanced Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Kishida has carefully endorsed Taipei’s views, while questioning whether China meets the bloc’s requirements.

In a recent interview in parliament, Kishida described Taiwan as “an important and important ally”, adding: “We hope to strengthen cooperation and exchanges between Japan and Taiwan.”

But in hindsight, it remains to be seen how much Japan can do to support Taiwan as China is a major exporter to Tokyo and economic relations are strained.

Komeito, a longtime ally of the LDP, also does not want to get angry with China, although the party has taken a stern turn to criticize Beijing’s human rights record in its upcoming elections.

Although pro-Taiwan-affiliated members of the LDP have demanded that coastal authorities be involved in maritime disasters, Tokyo will continue its long-standing commitment not to forge a military alliance with Taipei.

“As far as our connection with Taiwan is concerned, we need to make a small, gradual legacy,” said Keiji Furuya, chairman of the Legislative Council for the Promotion of Relations with Taiwan. “It is impossible to do military exercises with [Japan’s] Soldiers, but no one can oppose the cultural exchange. ”

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