Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) arrived in Japan yesterday for a week-long stay.
The visit is the fifth by Japan-educated Lee, 86, since he stepped down as president nine years ago. During his 1988 to 2000 term, he nurtured democracy and tried to promote a separate identity for Taiwan.
Each of Lee’s Japan trips has triggered protests from China, which sees them as attempts to strengthen Taiwan’s status, although the complaints have grown less vehement.
Japan does not require visas for Taiwanese tourists and Lee has said the visit is private.
Lee, wearing a grey suit, arrived at Narita Airport near Tokyo accompanied by his wife and was heavily guarded by security officers.
He was greeted by a small group of supporters waving the flags of Japan and Taiwan.
Lee plans to deliver a speech in Tokyo on Japanese society today. He is then scheduled to fly to Kochi and Kumamoto in southern Japan to deepen ties with business groups before heading back to Taiwan on Thursday.
On a visit to Japan last year, Lee said that an island group disputed between Japan, Taiwan and China was “a territory of Japan.”
The archipelago in the East China Sea is known in Japan as the Senkaku Islands and as the Diaoyutai (釣魚台) Islands in Taiwan.
“The land of the Senkaku Islands belongs to Okinawa, therefore it is a territory of Japan,” Lee said in an interview carried in the Okinawa Times in southern Japan.
During a visit in 2007, Lee mourned his late brother at Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni war shrine.
The Shinto shrine venerates those who died in wars while fighting for Japan, including convicted war criminals from World War II.
Lee’s elder brother is enshrined at Yasukuni because he died serving in the Japanese navy in the Philippines in February 1945 when Taiwan was a Japanese colony.