Poster row: Taiwan threatens to call off art loan to Japan over name change

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan threatened Friday to terminate a loan of treasured artefacts to Japan after the name of its national museum was changed in promotional posters in a row highlighting the island's sensitivity over its global diplomatic status.

Taiwan protested as a matter of "national dignity" and demanded corrections after some of the Tokyo posters referred to the "Taipei Palace Museum" rather than the "National Palace Museum" which owns the artefacts.

The name issue has long been a sensitive topic for Taiwan which is recognised by only 22 countries in a decades-old diplomatic tug-of-war with China from which it split in 1949.

"National dignity definitely comes before cultural exchanges. The government and the public will not accept if a cultural exchange hurts our national dignity," presidential spokesman Ma Wei-kuo said in a statement.

Japan, like most countries, has diplomatic ties with Beijing rather than Taipei, but maintains close trade and civil ties with Taiwan, which was its colony from 1895 to 1945.

Taiwan's first lady Chow Mei-ching was scheduled to attend the opening of the show next week at the Tokyo National Museum but she would cancel the trip if Taipei's demand was not met, officials said.

The National Palace Museum announced last year the loan of 231 artefacts to Japan, its first to an Asian country, following exhibitions in the United States, France, Germany and Austria.

The Taipei museum boasts more than 600,000 artefacts spanning 7,000 years of Chinese history from the prehistoric Neolithic period to the end of the Qing Dynasty that were mostly removed from Beijing's Forbidden City.

The museum's contents - one of the world's finest collections of Chinese treasures - were brought to the island by Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, when he fled to Taiwan after losing the Chinese civil war to the communists in 1949.

For years the National Palace Museum was unwilling to lend the artefacts to Japan for fears that China would try to reclaim them, until the Japanese government passed a law in 2011 to prevent such seizures.

China regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, although tensions have eased markedly since Taiwan's Beijing-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008.

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