TAIPEI Taiwan welcomes the name change by Japan's de facto embassy on the self-ruled island, the foreign ministry said on Thursday, a day after China called on Japan to remember that Taiwan is part of China, riled that the new name includes the word "Taiwan".
Japan, like most countries in the world, maintains only informal relations with Taiwan while it has diplomatic ties with Beijing - recognising China's position that there is only "one China" and Taiwan is part of it.
However, in the absence of formal ties, many major countries like Japan, Britain and the United States operate representative offices under various names as de facto embassies. The U.S. mission is the "American Institute in Taiwan".
"We will still strengthen exchanges between Japan and Taiwan," Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Eleanor Wang told reporters at a regular news briefing. "We think the name change by the Japan side more fully shows the nature of the institution's work in Taiwan."
From Jan. 1, the "Interchange Association, Japan" will become the "Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association", according to a notice on its website. An association official in Japan said the new name would boost recognition.
On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the name change was a "negative move" and urged Japan to uphold the "one China" principle and not create new disturbances in China-Japan ties.
Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the Chinese civil war with the Communists. China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.
China and Japan also have difficult ties. Beijing has repeatedly urged Japan to show greater repentance for World War Two atrocities and the two sides have a festering territorial dispute in the East China Sea.
However, Japan's 1895-1945 rule in Taiwan is seen by some on the island as having been good for its development, unlike perceptions of Japan in other parts of Asia, particularly in China and Korea, which are often deeply negative.
Taiwan had as many as 30 diplomatic allies in the mid-1990s, but now has formal relations with just 21, mostly smaller and poorer nations in Latin America and the Pacific.
(Reporting by J.R. Wu; Editing by Nick Macfie)