• Kyodo

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Former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui has denied claims he will apply for an entry visa to Japan on Monday in order to attend a symposium in the country, local media reported Thursday.

“I don’t know about this at all,” Lee told the China Times in Prague, referring to an announcement by Mineo Nakajima, a promoter of Lee’s visit to Japan, that the former president will file a visa application with Japan’s unofficial mission in Taipei on Monday.

Nakajima, president of the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, said at a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday that Lee revealed his plans during a telephone conversation before he left for a one-week visit to the Czech Republic last Saturday.

But the Taiwan newspaper quoted Lee as saying, “Whether or not I will be able to participate in the Asia Open Forum depends on the Japanese government’s decision.”

Lee, who retired from politics in May after 12 years in power, has been invited to the forum in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, Oct. 30-31 and has repeatedly expressed a desire to visit Japan.

Lee told the newspaper, however, he does not plan to go to the Interchange Foundation’s Taipei office — Japan’s unofficial mission — to apply for a visa.

Another daily, the Liberty Times, said in a further report from Prague that Lee would not apply for a visa as long as the Japanese government declined to signal it would accept him.

Without identifying its sources, the newspaper also said Lee has not yet decided whether or not he actually wants to attend the Asia Open Forum.

Nakajima said Wednesday that the aim of making the visa application is to force the Japanese government out into the open on the issue.

So far, Japanese government officials have refused to say whether Lee, now honorary head of the private Taiwan Research Institute, would be allowed to visit — on the grounds that he has not formally applied for a visa.

Last month, Masakuni Murakami, a senior lawmaker of the Liberal Democratic Party, told Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian in Taipei, that the current environment presents difficulties for Japan to accept a Lee visit.

China, which has accused Lee of promoting Taiwan independence on his overseas trips, has issued Tokyo with stern warnings against allowing Lee into the country.

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