By Joseph Yeh ,The China Post

Congratulatory messages sent by the prime minister and foreign minister of Japan to President-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) were “unprecedented” and signify close and cordial bilateral ties, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said on Thursday. Tsai Ming-yaw (蔡明耀), the new head of the Association of East Asian Relations (亞東關係協會), said Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on Saturday congratulated Tsai on winning Taiwan’s presidential election. On Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also congratulated the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairwoman on her victory in Taiwan’s presidential election and called Taiwan “an old friend,” Tsai noted. This is the first time that Japanese officials as senior as the prime minister and foreign minister have issued congratulatory messages to a president-elect of the R.O.C., he noted. Such an “unprecedented move” is a positive change demonstrating cordial relations between the two countries, and shows that Japan highly values its relations with the R.O.C. despite the lack of official diplomatic ties, he added. In a statement posted on his ministry’s website on Saturday only several hours after Tsai’s victory, Kishida said Taiwan is an important partner and friend of Japan, that the countries share fundamental values, have close economic relations and engage in personnel exchanges. Based on the stance of maintaining non-official and pragmatic relations with Taiwan, the Japanese government hopes that bilateral cooperation and exchanges can be deepened, Kishida added. Meanwhile, responding in the House of Councillors to questions about Taiwan’s first female president on Monday, Abe said Taiwan has long been Japan’s friend and its election of the nation’s leader symbolized Taiwan’s freedom and democracy. Abe said he looked forward to cooperation between Japan and Taiwan and further exchanges between the two. ‘Comfort women’ Issue Despite cordial relations, however, Tsai on Tuesday said that Tokyo has not yet given Taipei a positive response over the latter’s demands for an official government apology and compensation for former Taiwanese “comfort women.”   “Both sides have continued their discussion on the matter but so far the Japanese side has yet to give us an answer,” he said when asked to comment on the latest developments surrounding the issue. Taiwan has called on the Japanese side to officially engage in talks as soon as possible while presenting four demands, namely, urging the Japanese government to issue a formal apology, getting compensation for Taiwanese comfort women, returning to them the justice and dignity they are long overdue, and taking better care of them.

During his attendance at the funeral of a former Taiwanese “comfort woman” in Pingtung County on Wednesday, President Ma Ying-jeou reiterated the government’s stance that it will not stop pursuing the issue of “comfort women,” the euphemistic term used to describe women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II.