Foreign Minister Yohei Kono on Friday reiterated the government’s official position that an application for an entry visa has not been filed for former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui.

Kono’s comment at a regular news conference contradicts the announcement made Thursday by Senior Vice Foreign Minister Seishiro Eto that he has confirmed with the top Japanese representative in Taipei that Lee had indeed submitted an application.

Lee has expressed a desire to visit a Japanese doctor who was present when he underwent heart surgery in Taipei last November. Eto indicated Thursday that the visa should be issued because Lee is now a private citizen.

Kono, however, has maintained a cautious stance on the sticky matter in consideration of Japan’s relations with China. “I have not heard that the application has been filed formally, nor that we have accepted the application,” he said Friday.

Kono said Eto had reported to him before talking to reporters Thursday, but claimed that Eto’s stance is just one of various pieces of information that reached the foreign minister.

“I make the final decision of the Foreign Ministry as minister, after gathering various information,” he said.

Later the same day, a group of some 70 Diet members from across party lines urged Kono to issue the visa, emphasizing that Lee is now a private citizen.

The group, led by Diet members including Yasuhisa Shiozaki from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Kiyoshi Ueda from the Democratic Party of Japan, submitted an emergency appeal on the matter to Kono on Friday morning.

The group says Tokyo should decide the visa question as a sovereign state — not in fear of criticism from China — and should do so swiftly from a humanitarian viewpoint as Lee wishes to receive medical treatment.

Speaking to reporters at the Foreign Ministry later in the day, Shiozaki criticized the ministry’s stance, charging that ministry officials are “distorting the fact that a visa application has been filed.”

The group handed the same appeal to Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda on Thursday.

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