China complains to Japan about Taiwan vice president at Abe funeral

BEIJING, July 12 (Reuters) - China's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday its embassy in Japan had lodged "stern representations" with the government there about Taiwan Vice President William Lai attending the funeral of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

Lai visited Japan in what a Japanese official described as a private visit to pay his respects as a friend of Abe's, a move that was always likely to upset Beijing which considers democratically ruled Taiwan its own territory with no right to the trappings of a state. read more

Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, speaking at a regular news briefing in Beijing, said Taiwan was a part of China and "does not have a so-called vice-president".

"After the assassination of former Japanese prime minister Abe, the Taiwan authorities used the opportunity to engage in political manipulation," Wang said. "It's impossible this kind of scheming will succeed."

Taiwan's official Central News Agency said Lai was the most senior official to visit Japan since Tokyo broke official ties with Taipei in 1972 and forged relations with Beijing.

Abe, gunned down at a campaign rally last week, was a popular figure in Taiwan for his support for the island, and on Monday President Tsai Ing-wen visited the de facto Japanese embassy in Taipei to pay her respects.

Lai, a possible future presidential candidate for the next elections in 2024, is expected to return to Taiwan later on Tuesday, according to the Central News Agency.

Ahead of the election, where Tsai cannot run again due to term limits, Lai has been taking on an increasingly prominent international role.

In January he visited Taiwan's diplomatic ally Honduras, passing through the United States there and on his way back, where he had a virtual meeting with U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi. read more

He also briefly talked with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris while in Honduras, a rare encounter that was highly symbolic and provoked anger in Beijing at a time of simmering tension with Washington.

Reporting by Eduardo Baptista; Writing and additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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