Japan and representatives of former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui have agreed on the terms of Lee’s trip to Japan, paving the way for the issuance of an entry visa, a top-ranking Japanese government official said Friday.
“We have received word from Taiwan,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity, referring to negotiations between officials at the Interchange Association, Japan’s unofficial mission in Taiwan, and Lee’s proxies in Taipei.
The official did not elaborate on the agreement. But separate sources said earlier that one of the conditions Japan has proposed to Lee is to refrain from conducting political activities in Japan, including meeting with Japanese politicians.
Furthermore, Japan requested that Lee’s visit be limited to the western Japan city of Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, where he hopes to undergo a medical checkup for a heart condition, according to the sources.
Friday’s development is almost certain to upset China, which has repeatedly warned Japan against granting Lee an entry visa, claiming he uses overseas trips to campaign against China’s avowed goal of reunification with Taiwan.
Tokyo-Beijing ties are already under increased strain.
Japan early this month approved a new high school history textbook that other Asian nations say glosses over Japanese wartime atrocities.
And last week it decided to invoke emergency import curbs on several farm products that mainly come from China in a bid to protect domestic farmers.
China may retaliate against the visa issue for Lee by recalling its Ambassador to Japan Chen Jian, or by postponing a planned May visit to Japan by Li Peng, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, government sources said.
Lee, who wants to enter Japan on Sunday, has an appointment Tuesday with a heart surgeon who performed an angioplasty operation on Lee in November in Taipei.
In a news conference earlier in the day, Fukuda denied reports that Japan is seeking a written pledge from Lee on the conditions of his visit.
“I have not heard any such thing,” he said. “I don’t think we ever made such a request.”
In Taipei, a source close to Lee said the island’s former president is unwilling to sign a written pledge, calling the demands “humiliating.”
The source quoted Lee as saying that he would rather not go if he has to sign it.
Lee, who once studied at Kyoto Imperial University, the predecessor of Kyoto University, last visited Japan in September 1985, when he was vice president of Taiwan, on his way back from a trip to Central and South America.
Foreign Minister Yohei Kono, who has the final decision on issuing a visa, was initially thought to be against the idea for fear of damaging Japan-China relations, but has apparently changed his stance.
Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori repeatedly asked Kono to allow the 78-year-old Lee to enter Japan on “humanitarian grounds” in consideration of his heart ailment and the fact that he has retired from politics, stepping down as Taiwan leader last May after 12 years in power.
Pressure was also mounting not only from pro-Taiwan lawmakers within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party but also from some members of Mori’s Cabinet.
“We need to consider the international situation . . . but I also need to listen carefully to the opinion that consideration should be made from a humanitarian standpoint,” Kono told a Friday morning news conference, suggesting that he will be flexible.
Japan normally issues residents of Taiwan wanting to visit Japan for tourism and other personal purposes a short-term visa valid for 90 days.
But for Taiwanese politicians, Tokyo limits the visa to 15 days and requires they submit a written oath that they will not conduct political activities in Japan because of a 1972 Japan-China communique that says Japan recognizes Beijing as the “sole legal” government of China.
Tokyo will also have to determine which visa to issue. Foreign Ministry officials have said the decision would be based not on whether the visa applicant has a political title, but on how much political influence the person has.
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