• Kyodo

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Former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui will apply for an entry visa next week to attend an international symposium in central Japan at the end of the month, promoters of Lee’s Japan visit said Wednesday.

Mineo Nakajima, head of the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, said Lee informed him of his decision to apply for a visa Saturday before Lee left for a one-week trip to the Czech Republic.

Nakajima said Lee will submit his visa application Monday to Japan’s unofficial mission in Taiwan, the Interchange Foundation’s Taipei Office.

The request could put Tokyo in a diplomatic dilemma as China objects strongly to overseas visits by Lee, whom it accuses of promoting Taiwan independence despite his retirement from active political life in May.

China made its point clear at the highest level during Premier Zhu Rongji’s recent visit to Tokyo. Zhu warned his Japanese hosts that a visit by Lee would have “grave consequences” for Sino-Japanese ties.

But Nakajima dismissed such warnings, saying, “We are strongly urging the Japanese government to allow Lee Teng-hui to visit Japan given that he is a private citizen now, and to honor his own wish.”

Nakajima, who has close ties with the former president and has written extensively on him, is one of a number of Japanese figures who have vowed to realize Lee’s longtime desire to visit Japan.

Several Japanese lawmakers and Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara are also backing Lee’s trip.

He has been invited to attend the Asia Open Forum in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, on Oct. 30 and Oct. 31. Lee is planning to visit Japan for two weeks, Nakajima said.

If granted a visa, the former president would leave for Japan on Oct. 28 and attend one week of activities surrounding the Asia Open Forum. He would then spend a few days in the Osaka area and visit Kyoto, where he once studied, before returning home around Nov. 10, Nakajima said.

The Asia Open Forum has been held annually since 1989, one year after Lee became Taiwan president, and has served as a meeting place for scholars, opinion-makers and business leaders from both sides in the absence of diplomatic ties.

This year’s forum, which is to be the final one, aims to make an overall assessment of Lee’s 12 years in power.

Lee is currently in Prague to attend the Forum 2000 Conference, where he also met Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. It is his second overseas trip since leaving office following a trip to Britain in June. Both trips triggered strong protests from China.

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