Tue, Dec 21, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Japan ignores China's threats over visa

NEGATIVE IMPACT Beijing warned Tokyo that it will take unspecified action if former president Lee Teng-hui is allowed to travel to Japan, but Tokyo shrugged off the threat

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIES

Japan yesterday confirmed it will issue a visa to former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) as stated earlier, despite China's warning of retaliation.

Chinese envoy to Japan Cheng Yonghua (程永華) invited reporters to the Chinese embassy in Tokyo yesterday and told them that Beijing hoped the Japanese government would reverse the decision.

Lee may seek the support of Japanese politicians and businessmen for his Taiwanese independence agenda during his stay in Japan, the Central News Agency (CNA) quoted Cheng as saying.

"The Japanese government's decision to issue a visa to Lee will definitely have a negative impact on Japan-China relations ... Beijing may consider acts of retaliation depending on how Japan responds to its request," Cheng said.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told reporters that the Japanese government would not change its decision.

"We plan to issue a visa as scheduled," he said, without saying when.

Hosoda urged the media not to follow Lee and report on his trip, as his journey was private with no political intentions.

Tokyo had announced its decision to issue a visa to Lee last Thursday, which would allow him to travel to Japan at the end of this month. Lee filed his visa application at the Japan Interchange Association in Taipei the day after the announcement.

A spokesman for the association said in an interview yesterday that it had not yet issued a visa to Lee.

"We haven't received any instructions from our foreign ministry," he said.

The spokesman declined to answer when the visa might be issued and said he was not clear about China's warning.

"This question should be addressed to our foreign ministry in Tokyo," he said.

"Lee's trip to Japan, if successfully made, will mark an important step in the normalization of Taiwan-Japan relations," World United Formosans for Independence chairman Ng Chiau-tong (黃昭堂) said after Lee filed the application.

CNA quoted a close friend of Lee as saying that Lee will take his wife Tseng Wen-hui (曾文惠), granddaughter Lee Kun-yi (李坤儀) and daughter-in-law Chang Yue-yun (張月雲) with him.

Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) officials said the trip was a gauge of Taiwan-Japan relations.

Tokyo granted Lee a visa on "humanitarian grounds" in 2001 so he could receive medical treatment. This time, however, Tokyo had loosened its position and decided to allow Lee to visit for tourism purpose, the TSU officials said.

"No wonder China reacted so strongly," they added.

The agency quoted sources in Japan as saying that Lee will arrive in that country next Monday and stay for one week.

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