Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said he welcomed Taiwan's application to join a trans-Pacific trade pact this week, citing shared democratic values with the island, which China claims as its own.
Taiwan applied on Wednesday to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which Japan is chairing this year, less than a week after China.
"We consider Taiwan a very important partner with which we share fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, basic human rights, and rule of law," Motegi told reporters this week during his visit to the United Nations in New York.
While Motegi added that Taiwan's application would need to be scrutinized against the trade pact's strict standards, his comment stood in contrast to Japanese officials' more cautious reaction to China's application.
Asked about China's chances of joining the trade pact, Finance Minister and deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso expressed skepticism last week, citing strict rules pertaining to state-owned enterprises.
The original 12-member agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), was seen as an important economic counterweight to China's growing influence. China opposes Taiwan entering into any official treaty or organization as a sovereign nation.