Jim in Japan points out this report in the Daily Yomiuri:

An internal Foreign Ministry rule that only allows government officials ranking below division-chief level to visit Taiwan in an official capacity, has been reduced to a mere formality since Senior Vice Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Mitsuhiro Miyakoshi visited Taiwan in mid-August.

The rule, which has been revised several times, now effectively allows bureau-chief level officials to visit Taiwan if they have the requisite skills and expertise to carry out missions that the private sector cannot accomplish.

As such, many bureau-chief level officials have already visited Taiwan.

Since Miyakoshi visited Taiwan and met President Chen Sui-bian and other government officials “privately,” some government officials have said the internal rule has been rendered meaningless.

When Japan normalized diplomatic relations with China in 1972, it also severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan based on the Japan-China joint statement, which stipulates that Japan understands and respects Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is part of China.

In 1980, the Foreign Ministry mapped out a rule forbidding certain ranks of officials from visiting Taiwan.

With Taiwan becoming a member of the World Trade Organization in 2002 and an increasing number of international conventions being held in the country, a senior ministry official said Japan had been overtaken by France, Germany, and other countries, which had already sent cabinet members and vice ministers to Taiwan.

Yet another indication of the way Tokyo and Taipei are drifting closer. Taiwan was once a Japanese colony and many older Taiwanese remember the Japanese with great respect. With a native Taiwanese administration in place, the ideological barriers to upgraded links with Japan have been lowered. And of course, China’s bid to become a regional military power, and its manufacturing of claims to areas around it, is bound to bring the countries on its borders together. Look for further slow upgrade of relations between Taiwan and Japan.