Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) wants to visit Japan for a literary tour in May, a newspaper reported yesterday, and Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said the government would decide appropriately on whether to admit him.
Japan in September began a permanent visa waiver program for Taiwanese tourists visiting for up to 90 days to promote tourism and other exchanges.
But Japanese government officials have not clarified whether the program automatically covers visits by Taiwanese politicians.
The daily Yomiuri newspaper said Lee, a leading advocate of Taiwanese independence, might visit Japan for two or three weeks from May 10 at the invitation of private groups.
Abe told a regular news conference that Lee had not applied for a visa, but added: "We would deal with a visit by former president Lee or other prominent figures from Taiwan appropriately in line with our basic policy toward Taiwan."
Lee wants to travel to Japan this year but the timing must be worked out with Japanese authorities, said Lo Chih-ming (羅志明), secretary-general of the Taiwan Solidarity Union, the party founded by Lee's supporters.
"Former president Lee has plans to visit Japan, and he would like to go to Tokyo because he hasn't traveled there before," Lo said.
Japan has in the past granted tourist visas to Lee, infuriating China every time. Beijing reviles Lee and accuses him of actively seeking independence.
Lee last visited in 2004 when he made a weeklong trip to Kanazawa, Nagoya and Kyoto in western Japan. The visit sparked furious protests from Beijing, which accused Tokyo of supporting Taiwan independence.
The Yomiuri said that Japan would decide whether to issue Lee a tourist visa after confirming if he would refrain from political activities.
The paper said Lee, who studied in Japan during World War II, wanted to follow the path of a journey made by 17th century Japanese haiku poet Matsuo Basho.