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May 29, 2017

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Japanese lawmakers' version of the Taiwan Relations Act

On Dec. 15, 1978, U.S. President Jimmy Carter appeared on national television to tell the nation of his decision to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China on Jan. 1 the following year. Not knowing that the camera was still on him, he said he anticipated there would be "massive applause throughout the nation." There was, however, no national cheer for his normalization of relations with Beijing. Instead, a chorus of displeasure rang out over the way Carter treated the Republic of China, one of the most faithful of U.S. allies since the Second World War. That chorus echoed on Capital Hill. There emerged a broad bipartisan coalition that, in the end, was comprised of nearly all lawmakers who wrote and passed almost unanimously what is known as the Taiwan Relations Act. Carter signed the act, which passed into law on April 10. The U.S. government has to abide by it when engaging with Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.

Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka wanted to normalize Japan's relations with the People's Republic in 1972. On Sept. 4, his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) adopted a resolution on the basic policies governing the normalization of relations with Beijing which stipulated that the normalization of relations should not affect Tokyo's ties with Taipei. Tanaka sent Etsusaburo Shiina, LDP vice president, to Taipei on Sept. 17 to assure Chang Chun, President Chiang Kai-shek's secretary-general, that the resolution was binding on the Japanese government. In his meeting with Shiina, Premier Chiang Ching-kuo called attention to the "sanctity" of the Peace Treaty of Taipei signed between the Republic of China and Japan in 1952 to end the Second World War.

On Sept. 25, Tanaka went to Beijing with his foreign minister, Masayashi Ohira. Four days later, on Sept. 29, Japan and the People's Republic established diplomatic relations. Shiina's assurances were falsehoods. Tokyo cut off diplomatic relations with Taipei. The Peace Treaty of 1952 was scrapped. To conduct relations between the two countries after the severance of diplomatic ties, Japan created the Interchange Association, which set up an office in Taipei as an unofficial embassy. Its Taiwan counterpart, the East Asian Relations Association, opened four offices in Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka and Fukuoka.

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