TAIPEI – Taiwan decided Monday to dispatch presidential adviser Peng Ming-min to former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi’s funeral after Japan said it would not issue a visa for Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian’s top aide.
Taiwan Foreign Minister Tien Hung-mao voiced regret over Japan’s decision to deny an entry visa to Presidential Office Secretary General Chang Chun-hsiung. Tien said Taipei had hoped to dispatch Chang to Thursday’s funeral out of respect for Obuchi.
Tien, in answer to questions posed by a legislator, said Obuchi was a “respected politician with backbone.”
Chang echoed Tien’s views, saying he felt “deep regret” over the Japanese government’s attitude. Alluding to Chinese pressure, Chang said Tokyo is over-anxious.
“Not only does the Japanese government’s having too many political considerations not help bilateral exchange and friendship, I believe it is also not an outcome welcomed by the Japanese people,” Chang said in a written statement.
In Tokyo, Vice Foreign Minister Yutaka Kawashima said attendance from Taiwan has yet to be confirmed.
“We accept attendance from Taiwan by individuals not representing the country or government,” he said.
Kawashima told reporters that officials from Taiwanese political parties and other organizations had been accepted at past funerals.
In Taipei, one of Peng’s aides said the presidential adviser has applied for a Japanese visa to represent Taiwan at the funeral.
Chang was the first Taiwanese official denied a visa to Japan since Chen’s administration, the first non-Nationalist Party government in more than 50 years, was inaugurated May 20.
At former Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda’s funeral in 1995, Japan issued a visa for then Presidential Office Secretary General Wu Po-hsiung.
Another Presidential Office secretary general, Chiang Yen-shih, attended the Japanese funeral for victims of a China Airlines jetliner that crashed at Nagoya airport in April 1994.
While Chen has ended his involvement in party activities, Chang, a former lawmaker for the ruling DPP, still sits on the party’s key policy making Central Standing Committee.
Although Chang was denied a visa, Kuomintang member and Parliamentary Speaker Wang Jin-pyng and business tycoon Koo Chen-fu, who is well connected in Japan, will be able to attend the funeral.
Japanese Foreign Ministry sources said Koo and Wang hold multiple-entry visas for Japan issued earlier for different purposes.
Local media attributed Japan’s decision on Chang’s visit to “political considerations.”
Given that Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji is planning to visit Japan in October, Tokyo is eager not to rock the boat with Beijing, the reports said.
Beijing says Taiwan is a province that must eventually be brought under its control, even by use of force, if necessary.
Beijing did not want to see the DPP gain power because their independence policies and are adamantly opposed to any moves that could enhance Taiwan’s international profile.
The funeral would have given Chang an opportunity to rub shoulders with heads of state and government from many countries, including U.S. President Bill Clinton.