Gov’t denies Abe had to take cab during visit

By Joseph Yeh, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday refuted a local media report that the ministry had violated diplomatic etiquette by allowing visiting former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to take a taxi to attend a meeting with members of main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

A Chinese-language Liberty Times story yesterday quoted DPP’s Director of International Affairs Hsiao Bi-khim of accusing MOFA of violating diplomatic etiquette during his visit in Taiwan.

MOFA did not dispatch a vehicle to send the ex-Japanese prime minister to his appointment with DPP members on Sunday night nor did the ministry send diplomatic personnel to accompany Abe during the meeting.

Instead, Abe took a cab to join the meeting, which is a disgrace and embarrassment on Taiwan’s part, the report quoted Hsiao as saying. Hsiao also accused the foreign ministry of failing to assist her party in setting up a meeting with Abe, a move that clearly indicates a suppression made by the ruling administration on the opposition party, the report said. Abe arrived Taipei on Sunday to celebrate the first direct flights between Taipei’s Songshan Airport and Tokyo’s Haneda Airport since 1979. In response to the report, MOFA spokesman James Chang said the accusations made in the report were totally ungrounded. Chang said that his ministry did send a mid-size shuttle bus to serve as transportation for Abe and other visiting guests to all official meetings during their stay in Taiwan. Abe and other guests from Japan did schedule a private meeting on Sunday night and the group went to the meeting with the same MOFA shuttle bus under the company of Japan Interchange Association (JIA) members, which acts as Japan’s representative office in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties. However, Chang noted that they did not know with whom Abe was meeting on Sunday night since it was part of his private schedules. Chang also added that his ministry did not obstruct the meeting between the Japanese guests and the opposition party members.

The MOFA did not make arrangement for an official meeting between Abe and the opposition party only because the Japanese visitors did not make such request before or during their stay in Taipei, Chang added.

Abe was Japan’s prime minister between September 2006 and September 2007. He left Taiwan on Monday night.