Fri, Dec 17, 2004 - Page 1 News List

China angry over Japan visa for Lee

THREATS Beijing said that letting the former Taiwan president and `mastermind behind forces for Taiwan independence' visit would seriously damage ties

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIES

Taiwan welcomed yesterday Japan's decision to issue a visa to former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), while China demanded Japan rescind the move and warned bilateral ties would worsen if Lee was allowed to visit.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda announced in a press conference that Tokyo agreed to allow Lee to travel to Japan as a private citizen after he promised not to engage in any political activities during his stay.

Tokyo notified Beijing of its decision on Wednesday, Hosoda said. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi later told reporters that Japan had no reason to reject Lee's visa application but stressed Japan wanted to continue developing its relationship with China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao (劉建超) said in a news conference that Beijing has "already expressed very clearly to the Japanese side that Lee Teng-hui is a mastermind behind forces for Taiwan independence."

"We demand that the Japanese side revoke such a decision immediately. Otherwise it will of, course, have a negative impact on relations between China and Japan," Liu said, adding the visit was "by no means personal or one of nostalgia."

"I think his activities in Japan constitute a provocation against the reunification of China and we are strongly opposed to all kinds or forms of connivance with such activities," Liu said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei welcomed Japan's decision. Gary Lin (林松煥), director general of the ministry's Department of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, nevertheless said that the ministry was not clear about details of Lee's trip because it is of a private nature.

The Japan Interchange Association (JIA) in Taipei said yesterday Lee has not filed his visa application yet.

"He might take the trip at the end of this year," an official at the association said.

Japanese media reported Lee might travel to the Kansai area, famous for its hot springs.

The Central News Agency quoted a close friend of Lee as saying that Lee has not decided whether to take the trip at the end of the year because his wife Tseng Wen-hui (曾文惠) is still recovering from a cold.

Lee once said he wished to bring Taiwan's Aboriginal children to Japan to perform singing and dancing when campaigning for the Taiwan Solidarity Union's (TSU) legislative candidates, according to the agency.

"It has been former president Lee's hope to visit Japan and the US, particularly Japan," said TSU Secretary General Lin Jih-jia (林志嘉) yesterday.

Lee's visit to Japan would be his first since he received treatment for a heart condition at a Japanese hospital in 2001. At that time, Tokyo said it had granted Lee entry to Japan in 2001 on "humanitarian grounds."

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