Japan claimed Wednesday that it has not received an application for an entry visa from former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told a regular news conference Wednesday morning that officials at the Taipei office of the Interchange Association, which is the main channel of communication between Japan and Taiwan, said that “there has been no application or acceptance of such a document.”
But on Tuesday, Hideo Tarumi, secretary general at the Taipei office, confirmed that the application had been filed earlier in the day.
Japan’s top government spokesman, however, claimed he was not familiar with the details of the application process and did not comment further, which was seen by observers as an indication of Japan’s indecision over the controversial issue.
Meanwhile, in Taipei on Wednesday, a source close to Lee said the former president has urged Japan’s top representative to the island to support his application to undergo a heart checkup, saying it is a matter of life and death. Lee met Tuesday evening with Shintaro Yamashita, head of the Interchange Association in Taipei, following his application for an entry visa earlier that day, the source told Kyodo News.
Lee expressed dismay at Tokyo’s apparent reluctance to approve his visit, arguing he needs to undergo medical treatment in Japan “for the sake of my life,” said the source, who was at the meeting.
“No other country in the world is likely to put up such obstacles,” Lee told Yamashita, accusing Tokyo of bowing to Chinese pressure to bar him from Japan.
Yamashita reportedly asked Lee to withdraw the visa application.
Lee also voiced disbelief at Beijing’s continued opposition to him visiting Japan, saying, “I cannot understand why they have to be so hardline. One does not trample on already weak people.”
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman reiterated Tuesday that China opposes visits by Lee to any country, claiming that the former president uses overseas trips to undermine Beijing’s declared goal of eventual unification of China and Taiwan.
Lee, who underwent angioplasty in Taiwan last November to widen clogged heart arteries, applied for the visa to have a Japanese heart surgeon perform a followup check. The surgeon was present during the operation.
Lee filed the application after Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori indicated that a visa could be issued to him on humanitarian grounds.
But upon receiving the application, the Interchange Association said it would not act upon it for the time being, apparently mindful of resistance to a Lee visit from within the Foreign Ministry.
The Taiwanese Foreign Ministry called a news conference Tuesday evening urging Japan to grant Lee a visa.
“Lee has retired. He’s a civilian now and he is eligible and has the right to visit Japan,” ministry spokeswoman Catherine Chang said.
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