Mon, Nov 15, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Japan looks to relax visa curbs on Taiwan tourists

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Japanese government is working toward the goal of granting Taiwanese tourists visa-exempt entry by March, one of Japan's leading newspapers reported yesterday.

The Sankei Shimbun carried a front-page story that said the Japanese government wants to relax landing visa restrictions on Taiwanese people to make it easier for them to tour the 2005 World Exposition in Aichi, which runs from March 25 to Sept. 25. Japan currently grants only a three-day landing visa to Taiwanese tourists.

The World Exposition in Aichi aims to bring together global talent to create a model community for the future where humans can live in harmony with nature. It is expected to attract at least 15 million visitors.

The Japanese government still needs the Diet's approval to implement the visa-exempt entry proposal for Taiwanese tourists. That's because it has to amend its Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act. The law stipulates that visa-exempt entry is only available to Japan's allies, the report said.

"If the act is successfully amended, former president of Taiwan Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) will find little difficulty traveling to Japan," the report added.

An official at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Japan said yesterday it is hard to predict whether the Diet will pass an amendment to the act.

In August, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) told visiting Japanese Diet member Ren Hou, the first Japanese legislative member with ethnic Taiwanese roots, that he hoped she could work to relax the Japanese government's landing visa restrictions on Taiwanese tourists.

Former land, infrastructure and transport minister Nobuteru Ishihara brought forth the proposal to grant Taiwanese tourists visa-exempt entry at a Cabinet meeting presided over by Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junyichiro in September.

Minister of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Taro Aso and Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Shoichi Nakagawa backed Ishihara's proposal at the meeting.

However, the Taiwanese official added that visa-exempt entry for Taiwanese tourists will probably last only during the World Exposition. The temporary visa-exempt entry will also be granted to tourists from South Korea, the official said.

Statistics showed that around 5.2 million foreign tourists visited Japan last year. The Japanese government aims to double that number by 2010.

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