Japanese Prime Minister Candidates Welcome Taiwan’s Trade Pact Bid But Divided Over Yasukuni Shrine

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TOKYO, Sept. 24 (Reuters) – Candidates for Japan’s next prime minister all said on Friday they supported Taiwan’s bid to join a Trans-Pacific Trade Pact, echoing comments by Japanese officials that Taiwan shared values ​​such as democracy.

But, in a rare split, the four candidates vying to become Japan’s next ruler have taken different positions on visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine for the War Dead, seen by neighboring countries as a symbol of the country’s past militarism. Japan.

Almost eight decades after the war’s end, Yasukuni remains a powerful symbol of East Asia’s war legacy, and visits by Japanese leaders exasperate former enemies of the war such as China and Korea. South.

“I will not be doing (visiting the shrine) during the prime minister’s tenure,” Vaccine Minister Taro Kono, 58, said during a debate, asking if he would pay tribute to the Yasukuni Shrine if he became Prime Minister.

But her competitor Sanae Takaichi, an uncompromising conservative, said she would continue her frequent visits to the shrine even after becoming prime minister.

The winner of the September 29 contest to lead the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is almost certain to succeed Yoshihide Suga as the country’s next prime minister, as the party holds a majority in the lower house.

Suga announced he would step down two weeks ago as approval ratings dwindled, sparking a leadership race between four candidates.

Meanwhile, the four candidates expressed their uniform support for Taiwan’s candidacy to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

During the debate broadcast online, Fumio Kishida, one of the candidates and former foreign minister, “welcomed” Taiwan’s candidacy, saying that Japan and Taiwan share values ​​such as human rights. Kono said he also supports Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organization.

This reaction contrasted with Japan’s cautious approach to China’s demand for the same trade pact. Read more

“Considering the economic exchanges between Japan and Taiwan, I think it is a very happy thing that Taiwan adheres after passing the high standard of TPP. I would definitely like to lend my support,” Kono said.

Voter polls show Kono, who also served as foreign and defense minister, is their top choice.

Japan’s next ruler also faces already strained ties with neighbor South Korea over a range of unresolved issues, from forced labor during Japanese colonial rule of 1910-45 to contested islets.

The two countries are Washington’s main security allies seeking to contain North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic threats, but the candidates have shown little sign of improving bilateral relations.

Kono said Japan should not lose an information war against South Korea’s “propaganda” over territory issues, and Takaichi said Japan should stop any further construction on the disputed islets with the South Korea.

Reporting by Ju-min Park and Antoni Slodkowski; edited by Philippa Fletcher

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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