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Thursday, December 16, 2004

Japan approves visa for Taiwan's ex-president to visit - Dec 16, 2004

Japan approves visa for Taiwan's ex-president to visit - Dec 16, 2004

Dec 16, 2004
Japan approves visa for Taiwan's ex-president to visit

TOKYO - Japan plans to issue a visa for Taiwan's former President Lee Teng-hui to visit this year, the government said on Thursday, a decision that China has urged Japan to reverse or risk damaging Tokyo's relations with Beijing.

Beijing insists that self-ruled Taiwan is a part of its territory and opposes contact between the island's government and other countries - even visits by former Taiwanese leaders - that might imply it is an independent country.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said the decision wouldn't change Tokyo's policy of having diplomatic ties with China but not with Taiwan.

'I want to make it clear that Japan doesn't support Taiwanese independence,' he said at a news conference.

Mr Lee wants to come to Japan as a private citizen for a sightseeing trip with his family during the year-end holidays, the spokesman said.

Mr Hosoda said the 81-year-old Lee, who visited in 2001 to receive treatment for a heart condition, has promised not to engage in any political activities while he is in Japan. He also stressed the importance of Tokyo's relations with China.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman on Thursday urged Japan to cancel Mr Lee's visa, warning that he would use the trip to promote Taiwan's formal independence.

He also said that allowing the visit 'will have a negative impact on relations between China and Japan'.

Mr Koizumi told reporters that Japan has no reason to turn down Mr Lee's application and tried to downplay the impact on ties with Beijing.

'Japan will continue to place great importance on its friendship with China,' he said.

Mr Lee infuriated Beijing when he was president by seeking to raise Taiwan's international profile and push China to deal with the island as an equal. China argues that foreign governments provide a platform for Mr Lee's political views by allowing him to visit. -- AP

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