INTERVIEW/COVID-19 challenge underscores Japan-Taiwan friendship: Japan envoy

09/06/2021 11:02 AM
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Hiroyasu Izumi, Japan
Hiroyasu Izumi, Japan's chief representative to Taiwan. CNA photo Sept. 6, 2021

Taipei, Sept. 6 (CNA) A series of challenges posed by COVID-19 have demonstrated the true friendship between Taiwan and Japan, which is rooted in warm personal ties instead of government-driven campaigns, according to Hiroyasu Izumi, Japan's chief representative to Taiwan.

In an exclusive interview with CNA on Sept. 3, the first time Izumi has talked with local media since Japan's first donation of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses was delivered to Taiwan in June, he said the deep bond between people from the two sides is extremely precious particularly faced with the pandemic.

The just-concluded 2020 Tokyo Olympics was a good example, with Taiwan supporting Japan holding the event despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, Izumi said.

During the games, Japan and Taiwan also cheered and supported athletes from both sides, showing that they are "always teammates," Izumi said.

Moreover, Taiwan's Olympic team was the most popular with Japanese cities that volunteered to be "Host Towns" for global athletes, Izumi said.

A total of 28 cities signed up to support Taiwan for that program-- which provided athletes with pre-game training facilities, as well as held various cultural and economic exchanges -- more than for any other country, he added

"It was the third gold medal of Taiwan's games" after weightlifting and badminton, Izumi said.

"The current Japan-Taiwan relationship represents a 'cycle of goodwill,' of which all other countries in the world are envious," according to Izumi.

CNA photo Sept. 6, 2021
CNA photo Sept. 6, 2021

Izumi also recalled the flowers and letters that flooded into the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association after the first donation of 1.2 million vaccine doses arrived in Taiwan on June 4, saying he felt "overwhelmed."

Among the thank-you notes that impressed him the most, Izumi said, was one that said "I am definitely going to go shopping in Japan and max out my credit card after the pandemic. I am definitely going to buy a Japanese car when I replace my current one."

The Japanese government has donated 3.34 million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses since then and announced on Sept. 3 that a fourth batch of about 64,000 is on their way.

"We just did what should be done when your good neighbor is in trouble," Izumi said. "Such a level of gratitude somehow made me a bit embarrassed."

In the same way, Taiwan did not hesitate to reach out to Japan after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and following tsunami struck the country 10 years ago, Izumi said, adding that Taiwanese demonstrated the same friendship by donating face masks to Japan last year at the beginning of the pandemic.

Izumi also praised Taiwan's COVID-19 control measures, saying that he is impressed with the level of transparency and openness as the government deals with the matter and curbs disinformation.

2022 will mark the 50th year of non-governmental yet strong ties between Japan and Taiwan since diplomatic relations were severed in 1972. It is hoped it will be possible to hold large scale events by the end of this year to celebrate the friendship between the two sides if the pandemic is brought under better control, he said.

"2022 could be seen as a turning point in a century-long friendship for Japan and Taiwan," Izumi said, expressing hope that even more significant developments in bilateral ties lie ahead.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)

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