As Japan continued to dither Wednesday over whether to grant a visa to ailing former ROC president Lee Teng-hui, experts said it was time for Tokyo to stop worrying so much about what Beijing thinks of its policy.
“Japan has handled the issue so badly,” said Professor Masahiro Wakabayashi, who specializes in Taiwan’s politics at the University of Tokyo.
He noted it took days before Tokyo even admitted Lee had applied for an entry visa.
The Japanese public has “already judged it would do no harm to Tokyo-Beijing ties if Lee, now a private citizen, visits Japan,” Wakabayashi said, citing major newspaper editorials favoring the trip.
“The Japanese government has neglected its duty to set out principles on how to handle the former Taiwanese president’s visit and has only hoped he would retract his request,” he said.
Tokyo has said it must weigh up the national interest, its relations with both mainland China and Taiwan, and humanitarian considerations before deciding on the visa question. While Lee was Taiwan’s president, Japan could refuse him a visa under the terms of the 1972 PRC-Japan Joint Communique, which normalized Japan’s relations with the mainland.
The communique which in its preamble says Japan deeply reproaches itself for the damage inflicted on Chinese people through war, and stipulates that Tokyo recognizes Beijing as “the sole legal government of China.”
“Japan has adopted a policy of bowing whenever China takes a tough stance,” said Mineo Nakajima, president of Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.
“Japan is fearful of China and always kowtows before it, but this is a separate issue,” Nakajima, who has co-authored a book with Lee, said.
It is “ridiculous that a private individual cannot even enter Japan,” he said. “It is time to establish a firm stance” towards China, he said. Four lawmakers from a 100-member cross-party group supporting Lee’s trip called on Beijing’s ambassador to Tokyo, Chen Jian, Wednesday to seek Beijing’s understanding of the reasons for Lee’s trip. “We never achieved a meeting of minds,” admitted lawmaker Hiroshi Nakada, who was in the 55-minute meeting at Beijing’s embassy.
The real question is “what Japan should decide as a matter of sovereignty,” he said. Fumio Nishimura, an international politics expert, agreed.
“Why does Japan have to be so nervous about China?” he asked.
“China has often acted like a superpower recently and Japan should resist the tendency,” Nishimura said. Taiwan is economically very important for Japan, although Japan needs to take “a due attitude” towards mainland China given its economic potential, he said.
Japan is “obedient” to the mainland because the “China school” which has close ties to Beijing, wields great power in the Japanese foreign ministry, Nishimura said.
Some in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are also opposed to granting the visa because the Komei party, the LDP’s largest coalition partner, is traditionally pro-Beijing, he said.