Foreign Ministry unable to contact with more than 600 Taiwanese expats

By Joseph Yeh,The China Post

The China Post — Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday admitted that they were still unable to establish contact with over 600 Taiwanese expatriates who are currently staying in the six prefectures in the northeastern areas of Japan that were seriously damaged by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and powerful tsunami.

Huang Ming-lung (黃明朗), secretary-general of the ministry’s East Asian Relations Commission, said MOFA’s representative office in Japan managed to get in touch with around 40 to 50 expatriates in the affected areas with information provided by overseas Taiwanese associations there. “We cannot reach another 600 of them due to outdated information offered by these associations,” Huang said. Fielding questions at a meeting of the Foreign and National Defense Committee at the Legislative Yuan yesterday, Huang noted that many of these overseas compatriots have been living in Japan for two or three generations. Some have even become naturalized Japanese citizens, he added.

The ministry will do its best to inform these people, asking them to leave to safer areas for the time being, including a shelter at a temporary emergency refuge with a capacity for 300 people at the Tokyo Overseas Chinese School, said Deputy Foreign Minister Shen Lyu-hsun. The comments made by two senior foreign affairs officials came almost one week after Japan was struck by magnitude 9.0 earthquake and powerful tsunami that devastated northeastern areas of its main island on March 11. The latest announcement contradicted the ministry’s previous statements, in which they claimed that a total of 653 Republic of China expatriates who lived in the prefectures of Aomori, Iwate, Fukushima, Miyagi, Yamagata and Ibaraki, were all reported as safe after the ministry contacted the six overseas Taiwanese associations in these areas. Time Not Right for Full Evacuation

Meanwhile, during yesterday’s legislative session, the MOFA was under heavy fire from opposition lawmakers, who jointly accused the ministry of not making enough efforts to help Taiwanese citizens evacuate from Japan. Several Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators questioned Shen on when would be the right time for the forced evacuation of all nationals in the neighboring country through charter flights in light of escalating radiation risks. The deputy foreign minister said in response that not many countries have chosen to do so, and the government has no plans to send charter planes at the moment, adding that its current actions will suffice for now.