TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said on Sunday it was important to remember the good things Japan did for the island while not forgetting the bad, as he marked 70 years since Japan gave up control of Taiwan at the end of World War Two.
Taiwan was a Japanese colony from 1895-1945 and the then-Nationalist government of China took over rule of the island after Japan lost the war. Japan had gained control of the island from imperial China.
But the Nationalists had to flee to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with the Communists, who to this day insist the island is an integral part of China and have never renounced the use of force to bring it under Beijing’s control.
Unlike in China or Korea, many Taiwanese have a broadly more positive view of Japan than people in China or Korea, saying that Japan’s rule brought progress to an undeveloped, largely agricultural island.
Speaking in Taipei to mark what Taiwan calls Retrocession Day, Ma said it was true Japan’s invasion of China killed millions and issues like the “comfort women”, as those forced to work in Japan’s wartime military brothels are euphemistically known in Japan, still caused deep pain today.
“But Japanese colonial rule of Taiwan also bought construction, like the Chianan Irrigation system and Wusanto Reservoir,” Ma said, referring to two projects Japan oversaw.
“This benefited farmers in Taiwan, and we should naturally affirm it,” added Ma, a member of the same Nationalist Party that fled to Taiwan in 1949.
Looking ahead, Ma said that both sides should adopt an attitude of “distinguishing kindness from grievances” and discuss things based on their own merits.
“Only then can the Chinese and Japanese peoples build a great and lasting friendship.”
China’s ruling Communist Party marked the anniversary on Friday by saying Chinese people have a “sacred mission” to ensure Taiwan is always considered part of China.
Reporting by J.R. Wu; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore