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Taiwan says donating 2 million face masks to virus-hit Japan

FILE PHOTO: A worker shows a surgical mask with "Made in Taiwan" mark from a production line in a factory in Taoyuan, Taiwan April 6, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan will donate two million face masks to its former colonial master Japan, which has been hard hit by the outbreak of the new coronavirus, as part of the island’s efforts to show it can help the world combat the pandemic.

Despite being locked out of the World Health Organization (WHO) due to the objections of China, which considers the island merely a Chinese province, Taiwan has been keen to demonstrate it is a responsible member of the international community.

Taiwan is in the process of donating 16 million masks to countries hardest hit by the virus, including the United States and Europe, under the slogan “Taiwan can help and Taiwan is helping”.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday the two million masks for Japan would go to front line medical workers.

“Taiwan and Japan share values and are close partners and important friends at all levels,” it said.

Taiwan hopes to further strengthen cooperation with Japan, including in the research and development of vaccines and exchanges between medical experts, the ministry added.

Japan, like most countries, has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but the two have close unofficial relations. Japan ruled Taiwan between 1895 and 1945.

Japan has seen an accelerating infection rate in recent weeks, particularly in Tokyo. The government has responded by declaring an emergency in Tokyo and six other areas including Osaka, and a goal to cut interactions between people by 70 percent.

Japan, which tests only people with symptoms of the coronavirus, has so far recorded nearly 200 deaths and more than 9,000 infections, including passengers who caught the virus on a cruise ship.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore