Wed, Dec 22, 2004 - Page 1 News List

`Citizen Lee' is bound for Japan as Beijing fumes

RETALIATION?The former president has been cleared to go to Japan, which has prompted China to angrily criticize the decision and warn of impaired relations

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIES

The Japan Interchange Association in Taipei yesterday confirmed it has issued a visa to former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). The visa will allow Lee to make a single entry into Japan for a maximum stay of 15 days, the same as other tourists from Taiwan, a spokesman said.

China, riled by Japan's decision to issue Lee a visa despite its protests, warned yesterday that the move might damage relations.

"The Japanese government acted in disregard of the Chinese government's solemn representation and firm opposition and stubbornly allowed Lee Teng-hui to go to Japan to carry out activities to split the country," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao (劉建超) said at a news briefing.

"The Chinese government ex-presses strong dissatisfaction and again demands the Japanese side rectify this wrong decision," he said.

Liu declined to say whether Beijing would retaliate against Japan. Chinese envoy to Japan Cheng Yonghua (程永華) told reporters in Tokyo on Monday that China might retaliate if Japan refused to reverse the decision.

Liu said Japan's decision to issue the visa was "a very significant incident in China-Japan relations."

"I want to emphasize that the Japanese side should learn from past experience and adopt a correct attitude and rectify its wrong decision in order not to impair overall relations between China and Japan," he said.

Liu said the political motivations of Lee's visit were obvious.

"His political motive is to find backing and create overseas conditions for his activities to split the country. We think the Japanese side should be clear about this," he added.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told reporters yesterday that Lee wants to travel as a private citizen, so there is no reason to turn down his application.

"[Lee] also graduated from a Japanese university," Koizumi said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed Japan's decision.

"The ministry and our representative office in Japan will offer necessary help for former president Lee," spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said.

A friend close to Lee yesterday said that apart from family members and doctors, Lee will also bring two "VIP guests" to Japan. Lee's friend declined to reveal their identities.

Lee will fly to Japan on Monday and visit his alma mater, Kyoto University, during his stay.

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