China on Wednesday said it will postpone a planned visit to Japan by legislative chief Li Peng in apparent retaliation against Japan’s granting a visa to former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui.

The Chinese Embassy in Tokyo notified the House of Representatives, which had invited Li, of the decision, the Foreign Ministry confirmed. Li’s visit had been scheduled for late May.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Norio Hattori said Japan “regrets” Beijing’s decision, adding that Tokyo hopes Beijing will rearrange Li’s Japan visit as soon as possible.

According to a parliamentary source, a Chinese Embassy diplomat asked a Diet official to convey Beijing’s decision to House of Representatives Speaker Tamisuke Watanuki, saying recent developments have made it difficult for Li, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, to visit Japan soon.

Hattori said the Chinese official did not specifically cite Lee’s visit as the reason for postponing Li’s trip. But diplomatic sources said earlier this week that China has decided to suspend all high-level exchanges with Japan for the time being to protest Lee’s visit.

Lee, who arrived in Japan on Sunday for a medical checkup, is scheduled to leave the country today. He had angioplasty treatment Tuesday to clear clogged heart arteries at a hospital in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture following a cardiac checkup.

China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province, had urged Japan not to allow Lee to visit for any reason, claiming he uses overseas trips to promote Taiwan’s independence.

Zhang Qiyue, deputy chief of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Information Department, said Japan sparked trouble over Taiwan only weeks after triggering an uproar across Asia by approving a high school history text book that critics say glosses over Japan’s World War II atrocities.

China has also decided to cancel a May visit to Japan by a delegation of provincial heads, another source said.

China strongly protested on Friday when Japan decided to issue a visa to Lee to come to Japan for a medical checkup.

Japan, however, emphasizes that its position toward China and Taiwan has not changed.

“Japan does not want Lee’s visit to influence its overall relations with China,” ministry spokesman Hattori said, “because the government allowed the visit solely from a humanitarian standpoint.”

The government will continue to seek understanding from China that Japan’s policy of building a wide-ranging partnership with China has not changed, he said.

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