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Prestigious Japanese dictionary defines Taiwan as Chinese province

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TAIPEI — The seventh edition of a prestigious Japanese dictionary hit stores on Friday and immediately sparked controversy over its references of Taiwan.

Kojien, in its first revision in a decade, has again defined Taiwan as part of the People’s Republic of China. A map in the dictionary of administrative regions in China describes the republic as China’s 26th province.

The dictionary is widely accepted as the most influential and truest representation of the Japanese language.

Before the major revamp, Taiwan authorities demanded that the publisher, Iwanami Shoten, correct the expression, arguing Taiwan is by no means part of China. Iwanami categorically refused the request.

In 1972, Japan switched its diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing in a joint communique with China. The dictionary explains that the communique, from the Japanese government’s point of view, “effectively confirms that Taiwan belongs to China.”

Expressions regarding Taiwan generally remain unchanged in the seventh edition.

The communique itself says Japan “fully understands and respects this stand of the Government of the People’s Republic of China,” that “Taiwan is an inalienable part of the territory of the People’s Republic of China.” This wording leaves room for interpretation and falls short of confirming Beijing’s position.

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, equivalent to Taiwan’s embassy in Japan, on Dec. 11 complained to Iwanami, saying some entries were incorrect. It also asked for corrections.

Beijing later indicated staunch support for Iwanami. Hua Chunying, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, during a regular press conference on Dec. 18, said, “Taiwan is an inseparable part of China’s territory.”

The latest edition of Kojien, a prestigious Japanese language dictionary, indicates Taiwan as China’s 26th province.

Iwanami on Dec. 22 released a statement on its website saying the publisher does not find the dictionary’s entries wrong. It also explained that the expression “Taiwan Province” appears on a map attached to the term “People’s Republic of China” and that it simply referred to information provided by China.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry on the same day released a statement again requesting a correction.