Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka came under fire over the weekend from both her ruling Liberal Democratic Party colleagues and opposition leaders over allegations that she told China earlier this month that Japan will not again issue an entry visa to former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui.
During the Upper House Budget Committee session today and on Tuesday, the opposition camp is expected to press Tanaka to clarify whether she made such a remark, and also ask Prime Minister Koizumi for his official stance on the issue.
Ichiro Ozawa, chief of the opposition Liberal Party, said Sunday that if Tanaka really made that statement, she apparently contradicted the policy of the Koizumi Cabinet.
“If the foreign minister has made remarks different from the government’s policy, that amounts to a policy inconsistency within the Cabinet,” Ozawa told a news conference in Aomori Prefecture.
On Saturday, Foreign Ministry sources said Tanaka told her Chinese counterpart Tang Jiaxuan, during a telephone conversation on May 7, that Japan will not again issue a visa to Lee, whose visit to the country in late April to receive medical checkups drew strong protests from China.
If Tanaka did make the remark, she apparently made it without consulting or building a consensus with other government leaders.
During a Sunday morning TV program, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said he did not think Tanaka made any such statement to Tang. He said he believed that Tanaka only told Tang that Japan will deal prudently with the issue surrounding a visa for Lee, respecting the 1972 Japan-China joint declaration that normalized bilateral ties.
However, Katsuya Okada, policy chief of the largest opposition Democratic Party of Japan, told the same TV program that the government should give a clear-cut explanation on what Tanaka told Tang.
Criticism against Tanaka came also from within the ruling bloc. LDP policy chief Taro Aso, speaking to reporters Saturday evening, said, “It’s fine for (Tanaka) to state her personal views, but I don’t think (she) can reverse the government’s policy all by herself.”
According to the ministry sources, Tanaka, during the May 7 conversation with Tang, criticized the previous administration of Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori for his decision last month to issue the visa for Lee “out of humanitarian considerations.”
However, the current top aides to Koizumi — Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda and his deputy Abe — were also key members of the previous Mori administration when the visa issue was decided.
Koizumi himself told a Lower House session on May 9 that the government will “consider various factors to make an appropriate decision” if another entry visa request is made by Lee. Tanaka’s alleged remark would apparently contradict the prime minister’s position.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman told Kyodo News on Saturday it cannot confirm whether Tanaka made the alleged remark to Tang. But Japanese government sources say China will ask Tanaka to officially confirm her position when she meets with Tang in Beijing on Thursday on the sidelines of the foreign ministerial conference of the two-day Asia-Europe Meeting.
Tanaka, whose father Kakuei Tanaka normalized Tokyo-Beijing ties in 1972, is known as a pro-China lawmaker. But if Tanaka is unable to confirm her earlier remark on the visa issue in her Thursday talks with Tang, Tokyo-Beijing ties could be further strained and her credibility as foreign minister might be undermined.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.