Photographer: Billy H.C. Kwok/Bloomberg

China Slams Japan Over Name Change of De Facto Taipei Embassy

  • Office says name will include ‘Taiwan’ from next year
  • Japan defense minister visits Tokyo’s Yasukuni war shrine

China has criticized Japan’s decision to add the word Taiwan to the name of its de facto embassy in Taipei, risking fresh tensions over the self-governing island after a recent spat between China and the U.S.

The Interchange Association, Japan said on its website Wednesday that starting next year it will become the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association. It said the office "will continue to act as a bridge between Japan and Taiwan and is determined to further advance relations."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing that Beijing is "strongly unhappy with Japan’s negative moves concerning the Taiwan issue." A statement on the ministry’s website urged Japan to "stick to the One-China principle, properly deal with Taiwan-related issues, and refrain from sending wrong signals to the Taiwan administration and the international community or causing new disruptions to China-Japan relations."

The naming spat adds to simmering tensions in East Asia. Tomomi Inada, Japan’s defense minister, on Thursday visited a Tokyo shrine seen in neighboring countries as a symbol of her country’s wartime aggression; Japan’s military said Sunday it spotted a Chinese aircraft carrier sailing into the Western Pacific near Okinawa; and last week a Japanese government agency said Chinese universities and think tanks were forming ties with Okinawan independence groups.

Trump Friction

Many countries including Japan do not formally recognize Taiwan as an independent nation, a condition of maintaining diplomatic ties with Beijing. China works to ensure that Taiwan uses other names when it participates in international organizations or events, such as "Chinese Taipei" during the Olympics.

Relations between Taiwan and China have soured since Tsai Ing-wen became the island’s president in May. Tsai has declined to endorse the One-China policy, a long-standing acknowledgment that the two are part of the same China, even if they disagree on what that means. China considers Taiwan a breakaway province.

Friction over Taiwan escalated after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump accepted a phone call earlier this month from Tsai -- whom he referred to on Twitter as Taiwanese president -- and indicated he could be willing to reconsider his country’s stance on the One-China policy. Japan has also angered China by supporting nations engaged in a dispute with Beijing over the South China Sea.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed Japan’s move, saying the new title reflected its work in Taiwan and confirmed the development of ties with Japan.

"In recent years, Taiwan and Japan have grown close," the ministry said in an e-mailed statement. "Taiwan and Japan both enjoy the universal values of democracy, freedom and the rule of law. Opinion polls show the feeling of the two peoples are close and friendly."

— With assistance by Keith Zhai, and Debra Mao

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