No decision yet on when to hold annual meetings with Japan: top envoy

Frank Hsieh visits the Legislative Yuan at the invitation of legislators on Nov. 2, 2017. Taiwan’s top envoy to Japan told lawmakers he is not aware that the date of the meeting has been finalized nor whether the meeting will address the food import ban. (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) – No final decision has been made on when to hold two annual meetings with Japan on trade and maritime issues, Taiwan’s top envoy to Japan said on Thursday.

Japan’s Kyodo News reported on Tuesday that Taiwan and Japan are planning to hold the two-day Taiwan-Japan Trade and Economics Meeting talks on Nov. 21-22, where the Japanese side plans to bring up Taiwan’s ban on food imports from Fukushima and surrounding areas, citing unidentified sources.

One source indicated the issue “will be resolved soon,” adding that the Japanese side will be “well prepared” this time around, the report said.

Asked to comment, Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) told lawmakers he is not aware that the date of the meeting has been finalized nor whether the meeting will address the food import ban.

Chang Shu-ling (張淑玲), secretary-general of the Taipei-based Taiwan-Japan Relations Association, a semi-official agency that handles Taiwan-Japan issues, noted that both sides can be expected to bring up issues of importance to them, but indicated that no final date or agenda has yet been announced.

Hsieh added that the two sides have yet to set a date for a scheduled maritime affairs meeting, but said it would definitely be held before the end of this year.

Asked to comment on whether the food ban should be lifted, Hsieh said as the nation’s top representative to Japan, his personal stance is in line with that of the government which is to put the safety of Taiwan’s citizens first.

However, it is also a fact that Taiwan and China are the only two countries that continue to ban Japanese food imports, he said, adding that he hopes the issue can be amicably resolved as soon as possible.

Hsieh made the remarks at a Legislative hearing on Thursday during which he briefed lawmakers on Taiwan-Japan relations since assuming office in May 2016.

Taiwan’s government under the previous Kuomintang (KMT) administration imposed a ban on the import of food produced in the five nuclear-affected prefectures of Japan – Gunma, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba – following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011.

It further tightened restrictions in 2015 when products from those prefectures were discovered on shelves in Taiwan, drawing strong criticism from the Japanese government.

Since regaining power in May 2016, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has said it is considering lifting the ban on food imports from the four of the prefectures – excluding Fukushima – but has run into heavy opposition. No progress has been made on the issue since then. 

By Joseph Yeh