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Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka told her Chinese counterpart, Tang Jiaxuan, earlier this month that Japan will not issue an entry visa to former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui in the future, even for visits to receive medical treatment, informed sources said Saturday.

The remarks came during a telephone conversation between the two ministers on May 7, but the comments were not previously discussed with Foreign Ministry officials, the sources said.

Beijing strongly criticized Tokyo for allowing Lee to visit Japan for four days in late April for medical tests by a Japanese doctor as a followup to an operation on his heart in November 2000.

During the conversation, Tanaka criticized then Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori for issuing the visa, saying the previous government made the decision in its dying days and without sufficient public consensus, the sources said.

She then allegedly added, “I must say that the issuing (of a visa for Lee) in the future has become impossible.”

Senior ministry officials who were standing by as the conversation took place were surprised at the remarks, the sources said. Officials who later briefed the press on the contents of the telephone conversation did not touch upon the comments concerning Lee.

Beijing has welcomed Tanaka’s position and sources close to the Foreign Ministry said China is seeking official confirmation of this position in bilateral talks between the two foreign ministers in Beijing on Thursday.

The outspoken Tanaka is likely to be criticized from both the opposition and within her own Liberal Democratic Party for her outright criticism of the policies of the previous administration without prior consultation with other government officials.

Tanaka, who is also scheduled to meet South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Han Seung Soo during her visit to Beijing, said immediately after assuming her post last month that Tokyo should have been more careful about issuing the visa to Lee.

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