德中/欧中 | 2008.12.07
Taiwan party chief heads to Japan to ease tensionsSat Dec 6, 2008 9:26pm EST
By Ralph Jennings
TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou sent the ruling party chief to Japan on Sunday for meetings aimed at easing territorial and political issues between the two one-time staunch allies, the party said.
Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung will meet leaders of four Japanese political parties with messages that Ma wants to settle a dispute concerning sovereignty over an offshore archipelago, and that Taiwan's warming ties with China are in Tokyo's interests, a party media liaison said.
"Relations have been deep throughout history," Ma's office said in a statement to be passed on in Japan. "We hope Taiwan-Japan ties can be strengthened."
Before Ma took office in May, Taiwan and Japan maintained tight informal relations as both weathered disputes with China.
China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong's forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek's KMT fled to Taiwan. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.
Beijing frequently criticizes Japan for what it sees as the lack of an apology for World War Two, causing continued diplomatic friction.
China-friendly Ma's government has met formally with China over the past half year to sign trade and transit deals, building confidence to reduce any risk of war but worrying conservatives in Japan.
The KMT chief will tell counterparts in Japan to welcome detente between Taiwan and China, the party media liaison said.
Taiwan and Japan also recently faced off over competing claims to eight uninhabited but strategically important East China Sea islands, rich in fisheries and possible undersea natural gas reserves. China claims the islets, as well.
After Japan arrested a Taiwan fishing boat captain following a collision near the islands in June, Ma departed from Taiwan's usual practice by strongly criticizing Tokyo.
The KMT chief will tell Japanese party leaders Taiwan wants a "peaceful" settlement on use of the now Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, which Taiwan calls the Tiaoyutai, the party liaison said.
Wu will travel with other KMT officials, two legislators and a Taipei city council member. They plan to visit Tokyo and three other cities in Japan before returning on December 13.