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June 23, 2017

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MOFA summons Japan envoy over 'comfort women'

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Foreign Minister David Lin (林永樂) on Wednesday summoned Japan's top envoy to Taiwan to make clear the R.O.C.'s stance in demanding an official apology and compensation from the Japanese government for Taiwanese "comfort women."

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of an event in Taipei, Lin said a cross-agency task force formed to deal with comfort women-related issues convened its first meeting at the ministry's headquarters on Tuesday to come up with a four-point consensus before the government engages in talks with Japanese representatives.

The four points are "urging the Japanese government to issue a formal apology; getting compensation for Taiwanese comfort women; returning to them the justice and dignity they are long overdue; and taking better care of them," he said.

Immediately following the meeting after a "united front was reached," Lin said Taiwan's representative office in Japan has been informed of the consensus and asked to convey the stance to Lin's Japanese counterpart.

To better convey Taiwan's demand to Japan, Lin said he had summoned Japan's top envoy to Taiwan, Mikio Numata, to personally convey the consensus, on Tuesday morning.

Numata also promised that he will bring the four points to the Tokyo side on Taiwan's stance over the matter.

Discussions on the matter are continuously being conducted by Taiwan's Association of East Asian Relations (亞東關係協會), and its Japanese counterpart, Japan's Interchange Association, he noted.

The two groups are quasi-official organizations set up by their respective governments to handle bilateral affairs in the absence of official ties.

Convene Official Talks ASAP

The minister downplayed Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga's previous remarks, in which he denied that Japan and Taiwan had agreed to officially engage in talks on the issue this month.

Lin stressed that to his understanding, bilateral communications have been going on for a while since Jan. 4. Officials at Japan's Interchange Association were aware of this point but higher-ranking Japanese officials may not have been told, he said.

He admitted, however, it could take some time before both sides can officially bring the issue to the negotiation table due to its sensitive nature.

But he still hopes it could happen this month and it might take more than one round of talks to resolve the issue.

Lin said last week that Taipei and Tokyo are expected to officially engage in comfort women talks sometime this month.

Local media reports said the Japanese government may wish to engage in talks with Taiwan's next administration as President Ma Ying-jeou's term will expire this May.

Asked to comment, Lin dismissed the speculation, stressing that he was tasked by Ma with launching official bilateral negotiations as soon as possible and he is optimistic about doing so.

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