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Visas Vex Beijing

Japan and the United States have outraged China by issuing a visa to former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui, just ahead of a U.S. decision on arms sales to Taiwan that China also opposes.

The Japanese visa is being granted solely on humanitarian grounds, and Lee will be limited to seeking medical treatment for his heart condition, officials said.

China warned Japan against granting Lee an entry visa, regarding the island democracy as a renegade province and any international recognition of it as an affront. The sides split amid civil war in 1949.

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Lee, 78, is vilified by China for trying to break Taiwan out of diplomatic isolation during his rule.

"Mr. Lee is a very influential person politically," Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono said. "I think we are about to enter a difficult period in our diplomatic relations with China."

Japan, like most countries, recognizes the communist government in Beijing as the only legitimate ruler of China, and Kono said allowing Lee to visit does not reflect a change in policy.

The United States, which also follows a "one China" policy, issued Lee a tourist visa.

Taiwan Plays War
Taiwan's military practiced how to repel a Chinese invasion on Friday.

The hour-long maneuvers, involving mostly American-made weapons, started with a F5E Tiger jet attacking imaginary ships carrying troops in a battle zone marked off in the Taiwan Strait with red and orange buoys.

Fast attack boats cruised into the zone, firing Taiwanese-made Brave Wind missiles which roared through the air and left a thick cloud of brownish yellow smoke.

A rocket launcher pounded the target area with MK30 missiles. A brigade of Super Cobra and OH-58 helicopters showered the zone with rockets and machine-gun fire. The drill ended with 12 M48 tanks rumbling onto the beach and shelling the target area with artillery and machine-gun fire.

A Taiwanese military spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the mock battle was planned far in advance and was purely defensive. He said the drills were discussed with U.S. officials.

China had no immediate comment about the war games.

China has deployed an increasing number of missiles in coastal provinces facing Taiwan, and many of th anti-missile defenses on the island's shopping list reflect that threat.

Taiwan, which has cut its armed forces to 400,000, faces China's 2.5 million-strong People's Liberation Army — the world's largest fighting force.


"We consider him to be a private individual. Travel by private persons between Taiwan and the United States is a normal part of our unofficial relationship," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker told reporters.

A U.S. official said Lee planned to travel April 30 to May 6.

Reeker said Lee's office had submitted an application and the American Institute in Taiwan, which represents U.S. interests there, adjudicated it according to U.S. regulations. "Based upon these guidelines they issued a tourist visa to Mr. Lee," he added.

A Chinese Embassy spokesman said Thursday Beijing was strongly opposed to Lee's plans to visit Cornell University, where he studied in the 1960s.

In Beijing, Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Wang Yi called in Japanese Ambassador to Beijing Koreshige Anami to protest, saying issuing the visa "disrupted and sabotaged relations," the government's Chinese Central Television reported late Friday.

Lee, who retired a year ago, says he needs to go to western Japan for treatment of a serious heart condition. He made his request for a visa more than a week ago in Taipei.

He agreed not to engage in any political activity during his stay, Kono said.

The visas were issued amid rising tensions between China and the United States who have been locked in a dispute over a collision between a U.S. spy plane and a Chinese jet fighter.

Also straining U.S.-China ties is an approaching U.S. decision on Taiwan's annual request for arms, including four destroyers with the missile-hunting Aegis radar system, submarines and an advanced Patriot missile defense system known as PAC-3.

The United States is one of only a few nations that sell Taiwan weapons. Washington is obligated by law, the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, to sell the island weapons necessary for its defense.

Taiwan analysts said Washington was unlikely to sell Taiwan the politically sensitive Aegis system amid the spy plane rift. Instead, less-sophisticated Kidd-class destroyers might be sold.

Also on the island's shopping list are up to 70 Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, HARM anti-radiation missiles and eight to 12 Lockheed Martin P-3 maritime search and anti-submarine aircraft.

Zhang Yuanyuan, spokesman for China's embassy in Washington, on Thursday predicted a "devastating impact" on U.S.-China relations if the United States decides to sell any advanced weapons to Taiwan this month, including Kidd-class destroyers.

Asked to elaborate, he said: "Well, let's say destructive impact, very bad impact, devastating impact."

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