Wed, Aug 03, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Japan's lower house lifts visa rules for Taiwan

WELCOME WAIVER The lower house of Japan's parliament yesterday said it will drop requirements for visas for Taiwanese tourists, possibly forever

AFP AND CNA , TOKYO AND TAIPEI

The lower house of the Japanese parliament agreed yesterday to waive the visa requirement for Taiwanese tourists.

Japan had already suspended the visa requirement for Taiwanese tourists between March 25 and Sept. 25 to encourage them to attend the World Exposition, an international showcase of technology and innovation in Aichi Prefecture.

The House of Representatives passed the bill unanimously at a plenary session yesterday afternoon. The bill will now be referred to the upper house of the Diet for approval. If it clears the upper house, Taiwanese tourists will permanently be allowed to enter Japan without a visa.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) thanked Japan for planning to grant permanent visa-free treatment to Taiwanese tourists.

Praise

Chen praised the move as a step toward closer relations with Japan, which has no formal diplomatic ties with Taipei.

"If the Japanese government can realize its plan to waive visas for Taiwanese tourists on a regular basis, it would not only symbolize the good friendship between the two countries but also show [that Japan] values the 23 million Taiwanese people," Chen said while receiving Japanese lawmaker Seshiro Eto at the Presidential Office.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) also welcomed the move and an official said, "We appreciate the Japanese lower house's friendly move. Hopefully, the bill can clear the upper house as soon as possible to allow for its early enactment to further boost bilateral exchanges."

The granting of permanent visa-free status for Taiwan passport holders will mark a significant breakthrough in substantive Taiwan-Japan relations, the MOFA official said.

The bill was initiated by the head of the lower house's legal affairs committee and passed with the support of the Liberal Democratic Party and its ruling coalition partner, Komeito, and the opposition Democratic Party of Japan.

Necessary

As Japan does not maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the bill is necessary if Japan wants to offer a permanent visa waiver for Taiwanese citizens. Japan's existing exit and entry regulations only authorize visa waivers for citizens from countries that maintain diplomatic ties with Japan.

Taiwan has been Japan's second-largest tourist source after South Korea. Japanese parliamentarians said they hope that the permanent visa waiver will attract even more Taiwanese tourists to Japan after the Aichi World Expo and further boost bilateral cultural and commercial exchanges.

Furthermore, the Japanese government has launched a "Visit Japan" campaign aimed at drawing 10 million foreign tourists in 2010 compared with 5.73 million in 2003.

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