Japan recalls Taiwan representative amid naming controversy
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-06-22 06:52 PM
Japan is recalling its de facto ambassador to Taiwan in the midst of a flap over the name of the National Palace Museum (NPM) on publicity materials and tickets for an exhibition beginning June 24 in Japan. While a spokesperson for the Interchange Association Taipei Office said it is normal for Japan to change representatives every two to three years, coming as it does at the height of tensions in Taiwan-Japan relations over the use of “National” in the museum’s title, the move has raised a few eyebrows here and there.

Japan’s current representative in Taiwan, Sumio Tarui, is scheduled to leave office in July, a change that was reportedly decided upon on June 17. That was just about the time when word started spreading that the word “National” (國立in Chinese) had been replaced by “Taipei”台北on exhibition posters and tickets for the Tokyo National Museum exhibition.

In its June 17 meeting the association elected 64-year-old Mikio Numata as the new representative of the Taipei office, with Sumio Tarui expected to return to Japan in mid-July.

Sumio Tarui arrived in Taipei April 2012, which would give him a couple of months more than two years as de facto ambassador. This compares to three-year terms for the majority of representatives in Taiwan over the past few years. A spokesperson for the Exchange Association said most terms in Taipei run for anywhere from two to three years.

Sumio Tarui has maintained good relations with all circles in Taiwan during his tenure, with the highlight probably coming with the signing of an e-Business Cooperation Agreement between Taiwan and Japan last year, along with a number of other agreements including the Taiwan-Japan Cooperation Memorandum on Electronic Exchange of Priority Documents.

One foreigner who declined to be named said the interaction between Sumio Tarui and local figures has been quite good and the decision to change representatives comes as a surprise. In view of improving economic and trade ties between Taiwan and Japan, the replacement of the representative is unexpected, said the unnamed source.

New Japanese Representative to Taiwan Numata Mikio has many years of experience with the Foreign Ministry including stints as Consul General in Hong Kong, the Foreign Ministry Consular Secretary, and Ambassador to Myanmar. He is experienced and highly insightful on international relations, and is familiar with domestic affairs in China as well as cross-strait affairs.

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