Former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui ’68 Ph.D., after undergoing minor heart surgery in Japan on Tuesday, confirmed yesterday that he would postpone his visit to the United States for about one month.
The visit, which was slated to begin next Monday, also included a three-day stop at Cornell, his alma mater, so that the 78-year-old retired leader could visit his granddaughter and attend ceremonies for the establishment of the Lee Teng-hui Institute in Duffield Hall.
“The delay is due to my physical condition,” Lee told reporters while on a plane heading back to Taipei from Osaka, according to Kyodo News.
Lee’s visit to Cornell is now planned for May 29-31.
“The doctors advised that he rest up before making the grueling trip,” said Linda Grace-Kobas, director of Cornell news service.
A source close to the former president said his condition has yet to stabilize, adding that the five-day cardiac treatment at a hospital in western Japan took longer than expected, Muzi News reported.
What was intended to be a simple post-operative check-up for the cardiac surgery Lee underwent last November, became more serious when doctors had to perform an unexpected coronary angioplasty surgery to correct further narrowing of his arteries.
Hung Jui-sung, Lee’s personal Taiwan cardiologist who accompanied Lee to Japan, said that while the treatment went well, the former leader needs further medical attention upon his return to Taiwan, The Taipei Times reported.
He also said that the current cold weather on the East Coast is not suitable for Lee, given his condition.
Kazuaki Mitsudo, the renowned Japanese physician in charge of the operation, said the procedure went smoothly and Lee can be considered much healthier than in November, when he last had an angioplasty in Taipei, Muzi News reported.
Because of the new operation, Mitsudo said, a follow-up examination six months from now will be compulsory. However, it will not be necessary for Lee to return to Japan for the checkup.
Although Lee has now returned to Taiwan for a few weeks of rest, the delay will not change the nature of his quiet visit to his alma mater, according to Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations.
Even though he will be coming in the middle of the summer when the regular academic term is no longer in session, he will still refrain from making a public appearance, with the exception of a short photo opportunity for the press.
“This will remain a low-profile visit. We don’t have any plans to change the basic program at all,” Dullea said.
Lee was granted a five-year “tourist visa” to the U.S. last Saturday, the same day that Japan issued Lee a visa on “humanitarian grounds.”
Lee stayed in Osaka and Kurashiki throughout his trip, honoring the Japanese government’s wish that he stay in western Japan, according to Muzi News.
The typically outspoken Lee also refrained from making any politically sensitive comments that might exacerbate Japan’s already strained relationship with China.
The visit, Lee’s first to Japan since a short stopover as vice president of Taiwan in 1985, drew concentrated media attention, with some 200 reporters from Taiwan and Japan covering the scene.
Lee’s decision to postpone the U.S. trip may have been a bid to calm political tensions in East Asia, as Beijing has vehemently protested Lee’s Japan visit, according to some observers who voiced their opinions in Muzi news.
The one-month delay could reduce U.S.-China tensions as well as cool relations between China and Taiwan, which have come under great strain following the Bush administration’s recent announcement on arms sales to the island.
Grace-Kobas, however, said she believed that the recent political difficulties had little impact on Lee’s choice to push back a short, private visit to his alma mater.
“The decision doesn’t appear to be related to the current political situation,” Grace-Kobas said.
She added that postponing the visit, which would have coincided with Slope Day, may make the colossal celebrations more manageable for the University.
“A few people were getting worried; It’s a massive event that requires all of the University’s attention and much of the surrounding community’s as well,” Grace-Kobas said. “We’re sorry that [Lee] has to rest for health reasons, but the delay will make Slope Day a little easier for us.”
Archived article by Jennifer Roberts