Taiwan representative will attend Abe state funeral -foreign ministry

TAIPEI, Sept 8 (Reuters) - A representative from Taiwan will attend the state funeral of slain former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this month, but the government is still discussing whom to send, the Taiwanese foreign ministry said on Thursday.

Abe, the longest-serving leader in modern Japan, was fatally shot at close range during a campaign rally on July 8.

Taiwan Vice President William Lai attended Abe's private funeral less than a week later in a personal capacity as a friend of his, though the trip still drew a diplomatic complaint from Beijing, which views the island as its own territory. read more

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Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said they had "already received notification from the Japanese side" about the state funeral on Sept. 27.

"Regarding the candidates for our personnel to attend the state funeral of former Prime Minister Abe, we are still discussing and planning it," she said.

Taiwan is in close contact with Japan and will make an announcement "in a timely manner after completing the relevant plans," Ou added, without elaborating.

Japan has not commented on its invitation to Taiwan to attend.

China has not announced who it will send, or if it will send anyone at all.

Speaking in Beijing when asked about Taiwan's participation, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said Japan "should not give a stage for Taiwan independence forces to use the opportunity to play political games".

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is also going to the funeral, potentially giving whomever Taiwan sends a chance to interact with her. read more

In January, Harris and Lai had a brief conversation at the inauguration of the new Honduran president in Tegucigalpa, a rare encounter that was highly symbolic and provoked anger in Beijing. read more

Abe, killed at a campaign rally, was a popular figure in Taiwan for his support for the island, although Japan, like most countries, has formal diplomatic relations with Beijing, not Taipei.

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Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista in Beijing Editing by Tomasz Janowski

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