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June 29, 2017

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Exhibition name row hardly a "diplomatic breakthrough”

A naming dispute that jeopardized an exhibition that took a decade to prepare, featuring artifacts on loan from Taiwan's National Palace Museum (NPM), was finally resolved late last month when the Japanese side issued an apology in Tokyo.

In a press conference held on June 23, Masami Zeniya, executive director of Tokyo National Museum, apologized to the Taiwanese people over the row.

Saying sorry for the mistakes the museum made, in which the NPM's official name was not displayed on some posters and entrance tickets, a move seen by Taiwan as downgrading the nation's sovereignty status, Zeniya stressed that his museum has done its best to correct the mistakes.

Those exhibition materials, including posters, billboards and museum tickets, which were found listing the NPM's name in Japanese as the "Palace Museum, Taipei" instead of the NPM's official name, have all been corrected, he noted.

The apology and the corrections were accepted by the Taiwan government and the NPM, and the nod was finally given to launch the exhibition, entitled "Treasured Masterpieces from the NPM," as planned.

NPM museum officials dubbed their resolving of the issue a "breakthrough" in Taiwanese diplomacy because the Tokyo National Museum complied with the nation's request to correct the error.

The NPM said in a statement released on June 24 that its demands for Japan to adhere to the agreement the two institutions reached regarding the exhibit showed the Taiwanese people that their government is willing to stand up to other nations.

The "rectification" of the naming blunder is a significant moment in the nation's "cultural and diplomatic history," the museum said.

As rightfully pointed out by the nation's Presidential Office, national dignity is of top priority. And one should never sacrifice Taiwan's sovereignty status for a cultural event.

However, the naming row, though successfully resolved, is hardly a diplomatic breakthrough or the success claimed by the NPM.

As a matter of fact, it was exactly the lack of political sensitivity on the part of the NPM that almost led to the long-prepared exhibition not going ahead, in what should have been a perfect opportunity to showcase the R.O.C.'s soft power on the international stage.

Local media reported that the NPM discovered weeks before that some Japanese advertising materials for the exhibition omitted the word "national" when referring to the NPM.

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