Japan and the United States on Saturday congratulated Taiwan's Vice President Lai Ching-te, who heads the ruling, independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, on his victory in the self-ruled island's presidential election, pledging to maintain unofficial relations.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa said in a statement that Japan expects Taiwan will continue to "contribute to the peace and stability in the region" and expressed hope that issues surrounding Taiwan will be resolved "peacefully by dialogue."

In the closely watched race amid China's ongoing pressure on the island and Sino-U.S. rivalry, Lai defeated his rivals Hou Yu-ih of the main opposition Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang, and Ko Wen-je of the smaller Taiwan People's Party.

Lai Ching-te of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party is shown on a screen in Taipei responding to his supporters after winning Taiwan's presidential election on Jan. 13, 2024. (Kyodo)

"Taiwan is an important partner and a precious friend of Japan. We share basic values and enjoy a close economic relationship and people-to-people exchanges," Kamikawa said.

Tokyo "will work toward further deepening cooperation and exchanges between Japan and Taiwan, based on the existing position to maintain Japan-Taiwan relations as a working relationship on a nongovernmental basis," she added.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed Washington's commitment to maintaining cross-strait peace and stability and the peaceful resolution of differences, free from coercion and pressure.

"The partnership between the American people and the people on Taiwan, rooted in democratic values, continues to broaden and deepen across economic, cultural, and people-to-people ties," he said.

Blinken said he hopes the United States and Taiwan will further advance the longstanding unofficial relationship.

The United States, similar to Japan, adheres to a "one-China policy," in which it recognizes the Communist-ruled China as the sole legal government. But Washington continues to sell weapons to Taiwan for its self-defense.

In November last year, U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met near San Francisco and Biden told Xi that China should not interfere in the presidential electoral process.

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