The Presidential Office yesterday denied media reports that first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) intended to visit Japan in May, seeking to scotch recent speculation about a visit.
"The first lady has openly stated a desire to go to Japan again. But there are a lot of factors we have to take into account, including her personal health," said Chen Wen-tsung (陳文宗), director-general of the Department of Public Affairs under the Presidential Office.
Chen said that currently there was no timetable for the first lady's visit.
"We don't have a concrete, detailed plan for the trip," he said.
Chen's comments came after local media reports that Wu was scheduled to make a six-day trip to Japan beginning May 9th, mainly to visit the 2005 Expo held in Aichi Prefecture. A Chinese TV news station reported that the outgoing Government Information Office (GIO) Director-General Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) yesterday took time to go to the Expo site to check acessibility for the wheelchair-bound Wu.
The Presidential Office, however, denied that Lin's was on reconnaissance for Wu's trip and said that May was not a preferred time frame.
While the Presidential Office has tried to stay low-key about Wu's trip, diplomats in Japan acknowledge that it is an open secret that the Japanese government has given Wu's visit the thumbs up.
"Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, the Japanese government spokesman, said in early February that Japan will let Wu come if the visit were private in nature. There is no diplomatic difficulty regarding Wu's trip," said a diplomat surnamed Chu at Taiwan's representative office in Tokyo.
"Although the Japanese government has not officially decided its position yet, Hosoda has made it explicit by saying that Wu has visited Japan before for sightseeing," Chu said.
"The key point is not whether Japan will allow the visit, but when the visit will take place. The timing is important," he said.
According to Chu, because China's Vice Premier Wu Yi (吳儀) is slated to visit Japan in May, the Japanese government may consider arranging Wu's visit at a different time to avert protest from Beijing.
If Wu Shu-jen's visit to Expo Aichi happens, this will be her fourth visit to Japan since she became first lady in May 2000. Since the Japanese Government has waived visa requirements for Taiwanese tourists during the Expo period between March 25 and September 25, Wu will also benefit from the visa-free policy.