10/10/2015, 00.00
TAIWAN
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2016 Presidential elections: Taiwan’s opposition leader in Japan to seek support

Tsai Ing-wen, who is the Democratic Progressive Party’s presidential candidate, met with Japanese government ministers, Prime Minister Abe’s younger brother as well as other sympathizers. Her victory in the election would pave the way for the resumption of diplomatic ties with Tokyo, analyst says. Taiwanese are dissatisfied with the ruling Kuomintang’s pro-Beijing trade policies.

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Tsai Ing-wen, leader of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party and its candidate in the presidential elections of January 2016, is in Japan to promote economic cooperation and cultural exchanges between the two countries.

In the Japanese capital, the Taiwanese leader met Abe’s younger brother, Nobuo Kishi, as well as “some people concerned" in issues of regional stability, economic integration and economic cooperation between the two countries.

Some analysts believe that if she is elected, Tokyo and Taipei could resume diplomatic relations.

Nothing is known about the ministers she might have met. However, if she did meet Japanese Cabinet ministers, Tsai would be the first Taiwanese opposition leader ever to do so on the eve of an election.

Some believe that she met Abe. The Japanese PM reportedly had lunch at the same hotel where Tsai had lunch with members of the Interchange Association, Tokyo's de facto mission in Taiwan that acts as negotiator in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.

Tsai Ing-wen, a London School of Economics graduate, was the first woman to run for president in 2012, which saw the re-election of incumbent president, Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang or nationalist party, which is backed by big business.

On that occasion, the electorate rewarded Ma’s attempt to improve relations with Beijing, and his policies of opening the island and the mainland to each other’s investments, as well as establishing daily air, sea and mail links.

Tsai, 59, supports the island's independence from China and is closer to the positions of workers and peasants.

Now she is also looking for Japan’s backing in order to take advantage of the Kuomintang’s defeat in the November 2014 municipal elections.

“I hope the friendship between Taiwan and Japan can become a partnership that is closer and [more] cooperative in the next stage,” she told members of a Taiwan-friendly Japanese parliamentary group.

A Taipei-based commentator said Tsai’s trip could pave the way for Taipei to resume closer diplomatic ties with Tokyo.

“As Tsai is the most likely presidential candidate to win Taiwan’s election next year, Abe and other Japanese political heavyweights will be keen to meet her,” he said.

“Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang maintains only trading and economic ties with Japan because of its long-standing anti-Japanese sentiment left over from fighting in the Second World War,” he added.

However, as Taipei and Tokyo both bear grudges against mainland China, Tsai’s trip to Japan might make Beijing unhappy, he explained.

“But Beijing’s anger will not have any impact on Tsai’s public support,” he said. “Many Taiwanese are not happy about the ruling Kuomintang’s pro-Beijing policies, which benefit only large enterprises”.

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