Tue, Jan 25, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Japan to keep visa exemptions

REFUSING TO BOW A Japanese official denied reports that visa exemptions for Taiwanese tourists had been canceled, saying that Tokyo did not make policy at the behest of Beijing

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER, WITH AGENCIES

Japan's decision to grant visa-free privileges for Taiwanese tourists between March 25 and Sept. 25 will not be subject to any change despite protests from China, a Japanese official said yesterday.

Akira Chiba, assistant press secretary at Japan's Foreign Ministry, made the remarks after the Japanese Yomiuri Shimbun daily reported that Beijing has protested Japan's visa-free decision for Taiwan.

Chiba told journalists that Japan will offer visa-free privileges to Taiwanese tourists during the March-September period, to coincide with an eco-friendly world exposition to be held in the central Japanese prefecture of Aichi.

"This will not be subject to any change simply because of Beijing's protests," Chiba said.

Japan plans to allow Taiwanese and South Korean tourists to enter the country without a visa during this year's World Exposition, which is to be held in Aichi Prefecture, central Japan, from March 25 to Sept. 25.

"The Diet session started last Friday and will run until June 15. Some Diet members planned to propose an amendment to a law in order to launch a new visa policy for Taiwanese tourists," an official at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Tokyo said yesterday.

The bill could be passed in the middle of next month at the earliest if reviewed in the Diet according to the original schedule, said the official.

At present, Japan issues visas only to Chinese tourists from three cities and five provinces.

During the exposition period, however, all Chinese citizens would be allowed to apply for Japanese visas.

There is no plan to extend the visa-exempt entry privilege to tourists from China because of concern that they might stay on in Japan, the Yomiuri Shimbun said.

Beijing protested against the visa policy during a visit by Japanese Transport Minister Kazuo Kitagawa to China last week. Japanese government officials are trying to confirm Beijing's view on the matter, the paper said.

Japan launched a campaign in 2003 to double the number of incoming tourists to 10 million annually by 2010 from around 5 million, and the exposition is seen as an opportunity to attract more visitors, particularly from other parts of Asia.

Taiwanese and South Koreans form the two largest groups of tourists to Japan and rarely overstay visas, the paper said.

The Japanese government has to amend its Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act to implement a new visa policy for Taiwanese tourists.

The law stipulates that visa-exempt entry is only available to Japan's diplomatic allies. Although a significant number of foreign tourists arriving in Japan are from Taiwan and South Korea, Japan cannot lift the present visa restrictions because of the law.

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