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Taiwan-Japan museum row solved

A row between Tokyo and Taipei over the loan of a host of treasured artefacts to Japan has been solved, Taiwanese officials said on Monday, with the exhibition set to open on schedule.

TAIPEI: A row between Tokyo and Taipei over the loan of a host of treasured artefacts to Japan has been solved, Taiwanese officials said on Monday, with the exhibition set to open on schedule.

The disagreement broke out last week after the name of Taiwan's national museum was changed in promotional posters advertising an upcoming exhibition in Japan -- a spat that highlighted Taipei's sensitivity over its global diplomatic status.

Hundreds of artefacts and artworks from the Taipei National Palace Museum were due to go on display in Japan for the first time.

But Taiwan threatened to cancel the event after it emerged that the word "national" had been omitted from a number of promotional posters and tickets.

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

The row was solved at the last minute after the Tokyo National Museum, the exhibition's main sponsor, fixed the problematic posters, museum officials in Taipei said.

"I got phone calls from my colleagues around 7:00am confirming that all the problematic posters have been fixed," Feng Ming-chu, director of the Taipei museum, told reporters Monday shortly before her departure for Tokyo.

Feng added that the decision was made in a rush, making it unlikely that Taiwan's first lady would attend Monday's opening.

Chow Mei-ching, the wife of President Ma Ying-jeou, postponed a rare visit to Japan after the naming row broke out.

When reached by AFP for comment, a spokeswoman for President Ma Ying-jeou's office said she could not predict if and when Chow could resume her trip.

Feng added that the Tokyo museum owes Taiwan an apology for its mistake. Taiwanese officials have insisted the Tokyo museum guaranteed in a contract that the lender's full name would be used and that the word "national" would not be omitted.

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

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

The museum's contents -- one of the world's finest collections of Chinese treasures -- mostly came from Beijing's Forbidden City. They 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 fear 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 Ma took office in 2008.

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