Taiwan's Legislative Speaker You Si-kun led a ferry trial run Tuesday between the island's eastern county of Yilan and Japan's westernmost inhabited island of Yonaguni in a bid to boost bilateral tourism and ties.
You and his delegation of around 80 people, including some 40 tourism industry representatives, made a round trip between a port in Suao in Yilan and Yonaguni, with the two-way ferry rides taking around four hours.
On the Japanese island, they held talks with Keiji Furuya, who heads a cross-party group of Japanese lawmakers dedicated to strengthening Japan-Taiwan relations, and Yonaguni Mayor Kenichi Itokazu.
The mayor told reporters he will keep pressing the Japanese central government to launch regular ferry services linking Yonaguni and Taiwan. There are currently no direct flights or ferry runs between the two islands, which lie 111 kilometers apart.
After returning to Suao accompanied by Furuya, You told reporters the trip fulfilled its objective as it allowed those from the tourism industry to see Yonaguni so that they can work on the possibility of organizing tours to the island.
It remains unclear whether You's ferry trip will irk China, which views self-governed Taiwan as a renegade province and opposes any official contact with it.
Japan has been bolstering its defense of the Nansei Islands, including Yonaguni, that stretch southwest from Kyushu toward Taiwan, apparently in response to China's intensifying military activities in nearby waters.
Asked about the possibility of a war breaking out in the Taiwan Strait, You said he does not think it is likely because democracies worldwide are very united. "As long as everyone is united, China will not dare to act rashly," he said.
Furuya, a member of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said while in Yonaguni that "cooperation among regions and countries that share common values could help keep China in check."
Upon arriving at Suao, Furuya said Taiwan and Japan should bolster their cooperation against China's provocations, with the world paying attention to the Taiwan Strait. The lawmaker will stay in Taiwan through Thursday.
Beijing considers that Taiwan must be reunified with the mainland, even if it requires the use of force. Taiwan and mainland China have been governed separately since they split due to a civil war in 1949.
On a clear day, Yonaguni Island, with a population of 1,700 in Japan's Okinawa Prefecture, can be seen from Yilan. When Taiwan was under Japanese colonial rule from 1895 to 1945, the two islands formed a single economic zone.