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Foreign Ministry silent on naming row punishments

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday remained tight-lipped on whether it plans to levy punishments on Taiwanese officials in Japan over a naming controversy centering on an exhibition in Tokyo featuring National Palace Museum (NPM) artifacts.

MOFA spokeswoman Anna Kao (高安) yesterday stressed that the ministry had done its part to assist the NPM during the incident in response to criticisms that Taiwan's representative office in Japan was slow to act during the naming row.

Kao, however, did not give a direct answer when asked to comment if the ministry will punish Taiwanese diplomats accused of negligence during the row, as suggested by some lawmakers and local media.

The NPM selected 231 pieces of its collection for the exhibition at the Tokyo National Museum, including the Jadeite Cabbage, one of the NPM's most famous artifacts.

However, a naming row forced Taiwan to issue a threat to cancel the unprecedented exhibition last week because some advertising materials were found listing the NPM's name in Japanese as the “Palace Museum, Taipei” instead of the NPM's official name.

Under strong pressure from Taiwan, the Tokyo National Museum has managed to remove and replace the advertising materials in question that were spotted at train stations and parks in Tokyo over the past three days.

Sensing the Tokyo museum's sincerity in correcting the mistakes, the NPM announced Monday morning that the exhibition would take place as planned, ending the diplomatic row.

Lawmakers across party lines have been blaming the NPM and the MOFA for their slow response over the naming row because both organizations found out weeks ago that some Japanese advertising materials on the exhibition had omitted the word “national” when referring the NPM.

However, the NPM and the MOFA both lacked political sensibility in dealing with the situation until last Friday, only three days before the exhibition was scheduled to kick off yesterday, according to critics.

MOFA's Exhibition Role

Asked to comment, Kao yesterday noted that the ministry has done its part in paving the way for the unprecedented exhibition in Japan by facilitating a reciprocal loan system for exhibitions in each other's country.

Following the signing of the agreement, MOFA's role was limited in terms of organizing the exhibition because such a cultural event that involves professional show-organizing skills is the responsibility of the NPM, she noted.

Since the outbreak of the naming controversy, Kao said the ministry made every effort to assist the NPM in asking the Tokyo museum to correct its name.

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