Readers may have heard about the recent declaration in Kobe, Japan, which called for a Taiwan Relations Act equivalent for Japan (referred to in Japan as the “Basic Law on Japan-Taiwan Relations”), and for ending Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation by greater participation in international organizations. The declaration—a full, unofficial English translation of which follows below—was adopted by the more than 500 participants attending the 7th Japan-Taiwan Exchange Summit held last month in the port city of Kobe.
The Kobe Summit
Despite the lingering effects of the various COVID-19 pandemic-induced restrictions, the Summit in Kobe was the largest ever, showing just how strong support for Taiwan is in Japan. Among the 510 participants were 365 representatives from 70 prefecture, city, town, and village assemblies across the country—ranging from Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture to Hokkaido’s capital of Sapporo. The Summit was organized by Kobe City Assembly members on behalf of the National Association of Assembly Members Promoting Japan-Taiwan Friendship, which chooses the host city.
The annual summits began in 2015. The first one was held in Kanazawa (Ishikawa Prefecture); the second in Wakayama City (Wakayama Prefecture) in 2016; the third in Kumamoto City (Kumamoto Prefecture) in 2017; the fourth summit in Kaohsiung, on Taiwan’s southwestern coast, in 2018; and the fifth and sixth summits were held in Japan in Toyama City (Toyama Prefecture) and Kaga City (Ishikawa Prefecture) in 2019 and 2020, respectively. 
Next year’s summit is to be held in Kochi City, Kochi Prefecture. Fukuoka, which also has well known historical figures with close ties to Taiwan such as Sugiyama Tatsumaru (called “India’s Green Father” for improving water and agriculture there by introducing Formosan rice), has expressed interest in hosting the event in the future.
In addition to the variety of cities hosting, the summits have been important due to the bipartisan nature of the participants. Every Japanese political party is represented: for example, the Kobe Summit saw attendance not only by many conservative independents and members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, but also an equal number of opposition party members (to include the Constitutional Democratic Party, Japan Innovation Party, Democratic Party for the People, Communist Party, and Happiness Realization Party). Even the junior coalition partner Komeito, known to be pro-China, was in attendance. Efforts by the People’s Republic of China embassy in Tokyo to force cancellation of the event backfired, and even led to increased participation. 
The Kobe Declaration
The organizing committee, therefore, has much to be proud of—organizing the largest summit ever, and a bipartisan one at that—during the COVID-19 pandemic and amid pressure from a hostile government. Moreover, the Kobe Declaration will likely go down in history as an important turning point in Japanese-Taiwanese relations. For the benefit of readers, I have taken the liberty of translating the Japanese-language version of the declaration. It reads as follows:
Japan and Taiwan have always stood by each other and helped one another in times of trouble. During the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake that struck Kobe, and the Great East Japan Earthquake, as well as the shortage of medical supplies caused by the coronavirus epidemic last year, Taiwan provided Japan with tremendous support from the public and private sectors, and Japan also provided Taiwan with a vaccine against the new coronavirus. The friendship between Japan and Taiwan has deepened with each passing crisis and difficulty, and the bond between the two countries is stronger and more unshakable than ever.
Japan and Taiwan share the universal values of respect for peace, the rule of law, freedom and democracy, and human rights, and will not tolerate any pressure on our friendly relations or any infringement on our sovereignty. We are convinced that the “cycle of goodwill” through the strengthening of friendship and cooperation between Japan and Taiwan will not only benefit the national interests of Japan and Taiwan and improve the welfare of the people of both countries, but will also contribute to the improvement of human welfare and world peace. Therefore, in light of the declarations adopted at previous Japan-Taiwan Exchange Summits, we call for the following.
- Promote exchange and cooperation between Japan and Taiwan in the fields of economics, culture, education, tourism, medical care, disaster prevention, etc.
- Promptly enact a “Basic Law on Japan-Taiwan Relations” for strengthening the foreign and security policies of Japan and Taiwan.
- Considering that Taiwan is a hub for shipping, finance, tourism, industry, and epidemic prevention; that there were approximately 72 million passengers taking off from, landing in, or transiting through Taiwan in 2019; that there are approximately 24,000 Japanese residing in Taiwan; and that Taiwan has the three elements of territory, nationality, and sovereignty; Japan should strengthen its efforts to realize Taiwan’s participation in international organizations, international frameworks, and the United Nations system such as the World Health Organization (WHO), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO).
- Japan should strengthen its efforts to help Taiwan join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), to which it has applied for admission.
- Japan and Taiwan should cooperate with each other to help humanity overcome the new coronavirus and contribute to the improvement of human welfare.
In order to realize the above recommendations, the members of each legislature, legislator leagues and associations, and all of us participating in the 7th Japan-Taiwan Exchange Summit in Kobe will work actively to ensure that the bonds of friendship and goodwill between Japan and Taiwan continue forever.
November 12, 2021
7th Japan-Taiwan Exchange Summit in Kobe
What Would a Japanese Version of the Taiwan Relations Act Look Like?
Incidentally, one year ago on December 1, 2020, the most recent version of a draft Japanese Taiwan Relations Act was introduced at a gathering in Tokyo in the House of Councilors Office Building, across the street from the main Diet (parliament) building. In addition to local assembly members, numerous parliamentarians either joined the gathering or sent messages of support. The current version incorporates previous versions proposed by academics, former officials, current legislators, and others with close associations with either the Taiwanese or Japanese governments. I have also taken the liberty of translating this document into English, as follows:
Law Providing for the Strengthening of Relations and Communications Between Japan and Taiwan (Taiwan Relations Act)
Article 1. This law is meant to strengthen bonds and exchange in various fields between Japan and Taiwan, for the sake of the peaceful development of a free and open Indo-Pacific region and the national security of Japan.
2.1. For the purposes of this law, the “Japan-Taiwan Association” is defined as the agency called “Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association” established by the Government of Japan government, which has authority over mutual exchange between Japan and Taiwan.
2.2. The “Taiwan-Japan Association” is defined as the agency called “Taiwan-Japan Relations Association” established by the Taiwanese government, which has authority over mutual exchange between Japan and Taiwan.
Article 3. In order to realize the above purpose described in Article 1, the Japan-Taiwan Association can share necessary information with the Taiwan-Japan Association.
〔Membership in International Organizations〕
Article 4. In order to realize the above purpose described in Article 1, the Government of Japan will promote Taiwan’s membership or seating in international organizations.
Article 5. In order to realize the purpose described in Article 1, under the principle of reciprocity, high-ranking government officials shall be allowed to visit Taiwan, and high-ranking officials of the Taiwanese government shall be allowed to visit Japan.
〔Joint Drills and Exercises〕
Article 6. The respective government agencies of Japan and Taiwan shall not be prevented from conducting joint drills and exercises to prepare for rescuing civil maritime vessels, the prevention of the spread of infectious diseases, or other activities such as disaster relief.
Article 7. The Japan-Taiwan Association and Taiwan-Japan Association will mutually support the creation of sister cities linking Japan and Taiwan, and exchanges between them, without fear of third-country or third-party intervention.
〔Matters Concerning Mutual Exchanges〕
Article 8. In addition to the preceding items, matters related to the promotion of free trade, promotion of mutual exchange, protection of human rights, etc. in Japan and Taiwan shall be handled by agreement between the Japan-Taiwan Association and the Taiwan-Japan Association. The Japan-Taiwan Association shall consult with relevant government agencies in advance before making or changing these agreements.
〔Guarantee of Legal Rights〕
Article 9. The rights that Taiwanese have acquired or will acquire under Japanese law are guaranteed insofar as they do not interfere with the public welfare.
Article 10. At the request of the Taiwan-Japan Association or its staff, the Government of Japan shall take necessary measures regarding the granting of legal personhood in Japan to the Taiwan-Japan Association and the treatment of its staff with privileges equivalent to those of diplomats.
Many have long hoped that a Japanese version of the Taiwan Relations Act will one day become a reality. The Kobe Summit has brought the issue to the political forefront. Now it will depend on whether the Japanese parliament will take up the matter.
The main point: Interest in strengthening Japan-Taiwan relations continues to grow in Japan, as seen by the largest turnout ever (and despite COVID-related restrictions) of local assembly members from around the country to attend the 7th annual Japan-Taiwan Exchange Summit. The 510 participants adopted a bold statement, the Kobe Declaration, which called for—among other things—Taiwan’s participation in international organizations and a Japanese version of the Taiwan Relations Act.
 One reason for the active hosting by the Hokuriku area of Japan has to do with the fact that the engineer Hatta Yoichi—responsible for dam and other irrigation projects during Japan’s administration of Taiwan (1895-1945), leading to the growth and agricultural development of the Chianan Plain—hailed from Kanazawa.
 These efforts included, according to interviews with organizers, a trip to Kobe by PRC Embassy officials, using a nominal visit to a local zoo to check on the pandas there, to demand that the event not be held.