Despite the legacy of colonialism and occupation, Tokyo’s vaccine donation scheme has been improving relations between Taiwan and Japan.

Japan has been generously supporting Taiwan by donating much-needed Covid-19 vaccines, with three batches of AstraZeneca vaccines sent so far. The vaccine donation campaign began earlier this June, with 1.2 million vaccines delivered to Taiwan, despite condemnation from Beijing, and just last Thursday, a third donation of 970,000 doses of the vaccine arrived in Taiwan. This donation came in conjunction with direct vaccine purchases, 550,000 of which are from AstraZeneca, and 350,000 from Moderna, making for a shipment of almost 2 million vaccines, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. Thus far, Japan has donated a total of 3.34 million Covid jabs to Taiwan.

Today, about 20% of Taiwan’s 23.5 million has received at least one of the two vaccines required to be fully inoculated, though fewer than 1% are fully vaccinated.

Japan, which ruled Taiwan for half a century until 1945, has historically been cautious in its diplomatic efforts. But despite this complicated political legacy, politicians in Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic party have been pushing for the improvement of Tokyo-Taipei diplomatic ties. Likewise, MOFA has noted, regarding the vaccine donations, that “the relationship between Taiwan and Japan has always been extremely close, and our friendship is firm and deep.”

Earlier this year in May, Taiwan initially struggled with supply shortages that exacerbated Taiwan’s first major local outbreak of Covid-19 following consecutive months of no community infections. Taiwan has blamed China for obstructing its pandemic control measures by interfering in the region’s attempts to secure the BioNTech vaccine.

Last week, Chang Ya-chung from the opposition Kuomintang which supports reunification with China, failed to produce authorisation to import 10 million vaccines, half from BioNTech and half from Sinopharm.

Fosun, the Chinese multinational conglomerate with the distributor rights for the BioNTech vaccine, has stated publicly that it was willing to sell to Taiwan, but the Taiwanese government has noted that the conglomerate holdings company has not reached out to broker a deal.

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