Taiwan Sends Vice Premier to Japan for First Time in 29 Years

(Bloomberg) — A Taiwanese vice premier is traveling to Japan for the first time in 29 years to shore up economic ties and talk about the semiconductor industry.

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Vice Premier Cheng Wen-tsan is leading a delegation of officials and businesspeople from the economic and industrial spheres on the visit this week, Taiwan’s Cabinet said in a statement on Wednesday. Cheng visited key Japanese companies to hold discussions on important issues such as strengthening Taiwan’s semiconductor supply chains, the statement added, without naming the firms. Taiwan’s export orders plummeted in May for a ninth straight month amid a global slide in demand for chips.

Cheng said in a Facebook post that he met Taro Aso, a former prime minister of Japan and now vice president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. They held “in-depth discussions on Taiwan-Japan economic and trade exchanges, industrial cooperation and strengthening Taiwan-Japan relations,” he said.

Cheng also met Toshimitsu Motegi, the LDP’s secretary general and a potential future candidate for prime minister, public broadcaster NHK reported.

Read: Taiwan’s Export Orders Plunge Amid Persisting Demand Slump

The visit risks once again angering China, which opposes Taiwan having official contacts with nations it has diplomatic ties with. China filed a diplomatic protest with Japan after Vice President Lai Ching-te traveled to Japan for the funeral of former leader Shinzo Abe last year. Beijing also raised its concern over Japan boosting defense spending so it can toughen its security posture amid what it sees as rising threats from China, North Korea and Russia.

Beijing is also likely to be upset by a group of US lawmakers arriving in Taipei. Mike Rogers, chair of House Armed Services Committee, said during a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday that the visit by the delegation of Republicans and Democrats showed that US backing for Taiwan was “bipartisan and unwavering.”

Tsai thanked the US Congress for its concern for Taiwan’s security and expressing support through concrete actions.

China has been wooing Taiwan’s opposition Kuomintang in the run-up to a presidential election in Taiwan next year because it sees the party as a more congenial negotiating partner. It views the ruling Democratic Progressive Party as an obstacle to Taiwan someday coming under its control.

During his visit to Japan, which wraps up Thursday, Cheng was joined by executives from tech companies such as Lite-On Technology Corp. and Wistron Corp., the Cabinet statement added. The last time a Taiwanese vice premier visited Japan was in 1994, the semi-official Central News Agency reported.

–With assistance from Sing Yee Ong.

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