SCMP Saturday, April 21, 2001

Lee Teng-hui visas blow for Beijing

China suffered a major diplomatic defeat yesterday when both the United States and Japan announced they had issued visas to former Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui.
Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono announced last night that a decision had been made on "humanitarian" grounds to allow Mr Lee to seek medical treatment in Japan. A few hours later, the US State Department announced it had issued a tourist visa to Mr Lee to visit his alma mater, Cornell University in New York.
The Foreign Ministry immediately summoned the Japanese Ambassador, Koreshige Anami, to lodge a strong protest. China's Ambassador to Japan, Chen Jian, also made clear Beijing's objection to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, Xinhua said.
Taiwan's media said Beijing would retaliate by recalling Mr Chen from Japan and cancelling all high-level visits.
Mr Lee yesterday expressed gratitude. The ex-president was informed of the decision when he met Japan's top representative to Taiwan, Shintaro Yamashita, according to Peng Run-tzu, who applied for the visa on Mr Lee's behalf.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the US considered Mr Lee a private citizen.
"The travel of private persons between Taiwan and the United States is a normal part of our unofficial relationship," he said.