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Japan may decide by as early as this afternoon whether to issue a visa to former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui, who wants to visit Japan later this month to undergo a medical checkup for his heart condition, government sources said Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Yohei Kono, who is responsible for decisions on visa issuances to foreign visitors, met with Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori twice about the matter on Tuesday, but apparently no final decision has yet been reached.

A senior ministry official said Kono’s position — and thus that of the entire ministry — is that it is “inappropriate to approve (Lee’s) visit to Japan at this time.”

But the delay in reaching a decision seems to support reports that Mori is in favor of granting a visa to Lee, 78, on humanitarian grounds, considering that he is ill and has retired from politics.

The government is hoping for an early resolution to the case, but it is carefully weighing various considerations, the official said.

The issues include domestic public opinion, the level of urgency of the request, as it was made for medical reasons, and protests from China, which is warning that Tokyo-Beijing ties would be damaged if Tokyo issues a visa to Lee.

The Taiwan government has backed Lee’s plan to travel to Japan, causing concern among some Japanese officials, including Kono, about the possible political implications of the visit. Lee retired last May after 12 years in power.

Early Tuesday, Kono had not yet specified when a decision would be announced but said deliberations, including information gathering and analysis, are ongoing.

Government sources said earlier a decision will likely be made some time before this afternoon, when Mori is scheduled to hold a news conference to announce he is leaving office.

Meanwhile, Chinese Ambassador to Japan Chen Jian charged Tuesday that Lee’s planned visit to Japan for a medical checkup is a politically motivated plot.

“This is a political trip, not one aimed at receiving medical treatment,” Chen told a news conference in Tokyo.

The ambassador claimed Lee is taking advantage of the political instability in Japan ahead of an election for the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party next week.

In Taipei on Tuesday, a source close to Lee said the former president is willing to shorten the length of the proposed trip.

to dispel allegations that the visit would be for purposes other than a medical checkup.

Lee originally intended to visit western Japan from April 22 to April 30 but now says he would return to Taipei on April 26, provided that his checkup at a cardiology center in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, scheduled for April 24, goes smoothly and does not necessitate further treatment, the source said.

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