Former Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je, a key candidate in Taiwan's presidential election next January, called for deeper cooperation with Japan on Thursday in the hope of maintaining regional peace and contributing to global technological and economic development.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan during his visit to the country, Ko said Japan is Taiwan's "most important ally in Asia," adding that a mutual bond had developed over the past 100 years through mutual engagement and interaction. The island was under Japanese colonial rule for 50 years until 1945.

Former Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je attends a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo on June 8, 2023. (Kyodo)

The physician-turned-politician and chairman of the opposition Taiwan People's Party, also known as the TPP, said he hopes to re-establish a similar framework to that seen under former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui's administration, which served as a platform for high-level communication between Taiwan, Japan and the United States.

Ko also said Japan is Taiwan's third-largest trading partner, with the two closely collaborating in the semiconductor industry. He expressed hope that Taipei and Tokyo can work together to build a more resilient industrial chain.

Ko, who founded the TPP as a "third force" in 2019, is one of the three key candidates in the presidential election, running against Vice President Lai Ching-te of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-ih of the main opposition Nationalist Party.

He said that when he founded the party, the Taiwanese people had grown tired of power struggles between the two major parties.

Taiwan should have a coalition government in place, Ko said, calling on the ruling party to take the initiative and share power based on meritocracy, so that each political party can contribute and "unite" the island.

Concerning defense, Ko said he believes Taiwan should maintain a dialogue with China based on well-established national defense capabilities to act as "deterrence."

Communist-led China and Taiwan have been separately governed since they split in 1949 due to a civil war. Beijing regards Taiwan as a renegade province to be unified with the mainland, by force if necessary.

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