Dalai Lama warned off Ishihara talks

The Foreign Ministry has warned the office of the Dalai Lama that it would never again issue an entry visa for him if he meets with Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara during his current visit to Japan, sources close to the Dalai Lama’s office said Friday.

The move apparently reflects the government’s hope to avoid angering China after it urged Japan not to issue a visa to the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader and 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Ishihara, an outspoken critic of China, has said he wants to meet with the Dalai Lama during his stay in Japan through April 20.

But upon the Dalai Lama’s arrival in Tokyo on Thursday — his first visit to Japan in two years besides a short stop in transit — the Dalai Lama’s liaison office said he has no plans to meet with Ishihara.

China, which controls Tibet and regards it as Chinese territory, has warned that the Dalai Lama’s visit could undermine Tokyo-Beijing relations.

Japan issued the visa Monday through its Indian Embassy, where the Dalai Lama has been in exile since 1959.

The Foreign Ministry told his Tokyo liaison office in January that the visa would be issued on condition that he not engage in political activities during his visit.

After Ishihara announced his intention to seek a meeting with the Dalai Lama, the ministry reminded the liaison office that an entry visa would not be issued again if he met with the governor, the sources said.

No specific plan had been set for a meeting with Ishihara, they added.

Ishihara, a prize-winning writer and former member of the Diet, angered China in November when he visited Taiwan for talks with President Lee Teng-hui. The Foreign Ministry is believed to have feared an Ishihara-Dalai Lama meeting would further anger Beijing.

Japanese government officials said Friday that the government’s position was explained directly to China through “diplomatic channels” before issuing the visa to the Dalai Lama.

The officials declined to confirm whether a condition of extending the visa included a commitment to refrain from political activity.

“We can’t comment on the screening process of individual visas because of problems regarding privacy,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki told reporters.

Speaking to reporters separately, Foreign Ministry deputy spokesman Chikahito Harada said Japan sought China’s understanding after receiving the Dalai Lama’s visa application and before granting the visa.

“We made (our stance) clear to the Chinese side . . . through diplomatic channels,” Harada said. “Before we issued the visa . . . we explained our position that the application would be examined in accordance with relevant laws and regulations.”

Japan also told China that “should we issue the visa, it has nothing to do with our position . . . on the status of Tibet,” Harada said.

Tokyo has said publicly that problems concerning Tibet would not be a factor in its decision, as Japan maintains that Tibetan issues are internal Chinese affairs.