April 17, 2001

Japan and Taiwan Caught in Foreign Relations Dispute

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The excitement surrounding former Taiwanese President and Cornell alumnus Lee Teng-hui Ph. D. ’68, that has stirred the Chinese Students and Scholars Association and the Cornell Students for an Open Society, has also galvanized Taipei, the capitol city of Taiwan, and Tokyo, Japan.

The U.S./China stand-off that left diplomatic relations between the countries strained and a pending decision by the Bush administration to trade advanced weapons with Taiwan have been focal points in East Asia, but Lee has also shared the center of attention.

Lee applied for a visa to enter Japan last Wednesday for medical attention — seeking a heart examination in a Kurashiki cardiology center — but he was denied permission to enter the country.

Last Sunday during his first news conference since leaving office in May 2000, Lee said that he planned to proceed from Japan to the U.S. in order to attend the groundbreaking for a Cornell research center that will bear his name, according to Reuters News Service. Reiterating several recent reports from Taipei, Agence France-Presse also wrote yesterday that Lee has been invited by Cornell.

Then, the Japanese government cleared the way to reconsider Lee’s request for a visa, denying that the former president had ever issued a formal request.

“We will decide our stance after receiving a report from the Foreign Ministry,” said Yasuo Fukuda, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary yesterday.

Like the Japanese government, Cornell officials have promised a statement regarding a possible visit from Lee in the near future. Since reports linking Lee with Cornell have resurfaced for the first time in six years, University officials have denied the reports of a research center that will honor Lee. However, officials would not deny that Lee may return to the Ithaca campus later this semester.

Lee last journeyed to Cornell during the summer of 1995, addressing alumni during a Cornell Reunion Weekend and touring his favorite campus locations, including the Ag Quad — where Lee undertook his work at Cornell — Beebe Lake and the Sheila W. and Richard J. Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts, formerly the Center for Theatre Arts.

Dow Jones International News contributed to this story.

Archived article by Sun Staff