Top government officials showed their indecision Thursday with inconsistent comments over an application for a visa to visit Japan by former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui.
Senior Vice Foreign Minister Seishiro Eto said Thursday that Lee applied for a visa to Japan on Tuesday, the first senior Japanese government official to acknowledge the application had been filed.
Eto told a press conference he has confirmed that Lee’s proxy submitted the application along with a medical certificate at 11 a.m. Tuesday to Shintaro Yamashita, head of the Interchange Association in Taipei and Japan’s top representative to Taiwan.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said later Thursday, however, that the application had not been submitted, following the government’s earlier line.
Eto said he telephoned Yamashita on Wednesday night to ask him about the situation surrounding the case.
“(Lee) has applied as a private citizen and he is in a serious physical condition,” Eto said, expressing his support for granting the visa. “The government should proceed with the application from the private citizen promptly.”
But Eto emphasized the Japanese government has not accepted the application, explaining that Yamashita said only that he has been “entrusted with” the application form and related documents.
Eto also said the issue should be resolved in consultations expected to take place between Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and Foreign Minister Yohei Kono, adding that he telephoned Mori on Wednesday night.
It is believed that Kono has maintained his stance against granting the visa to avoid upsetting China.
Lee reportedly applied for a visa to Japan so he could undergo a medical checkup by a Japanese heart surgeon in Okayama Prefecture. The surgeon observed the angioplasty Lee underwent in Taipei in November.
Lee’s application challenges China’s repeated warnings to Japan and other countries against inviting the former president, claiming he uses trips abroad to promote independence for Taiwan, which China regards as a renegade province.
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