Taiwan ex-president begins controversial visit in Japan

Asia-Pacific News
Taiwan ex-president begins controversial visit in JapanEd: Adds criticism by Taiwan activist over Lee’s shrine visit plan (1st Lead)May 30, 2007, 8:03 GMT

Tokyo – Defying protests from China, former Taiwan president Lee Teng-hui arrived in Japan Wednesday to deliver speeches in Tokyo and to re-enact a journey taken by a 17th-century Japanese haiku poet, media reports said.

In a move likely to further enrage Taiwan’s rivals in Beijing, Lee, 84, unveiled his plan to visit the war-related Yasukuni Shrine, which honours, among others, Lee’s older brother, according to Kyodo News Agency.

‘It could be the last visit to Japan in my life,’ he said. ‘My older brother is enshrined there. As his brother, I cannot bear not to pay a tribute.’

Yasukuni Shrine, which is known to honour millions of war dead including convicted war criminals, has been a source of diplomatic dispute between Tokyo and many of imperial Japan’s World War II victims in China, Korea and elsewhere in Asia.

Lee’s shrine visiting plan drew an angry protest by anti-Japanese militarism activists in Taiwan, who said it would be highly improper for him to go there.

‘Being a former leader of Taiwan, Lee Teng-hui should have been well aware of the sensitivity of the matter and should refrain from visiting the shrine,’ said indigenous parliamentarian Kao-Chin Su-may, in Taipei.

Ms Kao-chin twice led dozens of Taiwanese activists to demonstrate near the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo last year, demanding an apology and compensation from Japan over tens of thousands of Taiwanese drafted to fight for Japanese imperial government during World War II. Taiwan had been under Japan’s colonial rule for five decades before Japan surrendered in 1945.

She said she understood the feeling of Lee to pay tribute to his elder brother, but if the ex-president really visits the war shrine, he would be ‘condemned by Taiwanese people because such an act would be a great insult to Taiwanese and high disrespect to the victims and their families.’

Taiwan’s current government under President Chen Shui-bian, which is friendly to Japan, was tight-lipped over Lee’s planned visit to the shrine, saying it would not comment on a matter that has yet to happen.

Lee’s Japan visit has also irked Beijing, which has expressed grave concern over his latest trip.

China has long opposed Lee’s Japan visit because it considers him among Taiwan’s most hard-core pro-independence leaders.

The former president of Taiwan, however, has insisted his 11-day visit to Japan is an exchange of cultural and academic views, and not politically-motivated.

He said he plans to visit several provinces in Japan to follow a five-month journey taken by the famous poet Matsuo Basho.

As president, Lee reclassified Taiwan’s relations with China as ‘special state-to-state’ ties in 1999, in an attempt to place the island in an equal status to that of the mainland.

The move enraged Beijing, which considers Taiwan a wayward province and opposes any move toward independence.
© 2007 dpa – Deutsche Presse-Agentur

So the proud Japanese slave decides to make one final trip to his false homeland in style by retracing the path taken by Matsuo Basho. It’s worth noting that Lee Teng-hui often prefers to be addressed by his Japanese colonial name, Iwasato Masao, as well as conversing in Japanese rather than the dialect spoken in Taiwan Province. Iwasato-san has made many pilgrimages to his homeland in the past with the usual complaint by the Chinese government, but this one holds significance as Iwasato believes this may be his final trip due to his age and because he is visiting the Yasukuni Shrine that honours both his fallen brother and the war criminals that waged the “Greater East Asia War”.

While many colonial Taiwanese and Koreans were forcibly drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army to rape and pillage much of Asia, Lee Teng-hui and his brother actually volunteered to enlist in the Japanese military with Lee serving in the army while his brother in the navy. We have to be aware that those who were drafted by force to fight are victims of Japanese militarism and imperialism while those who enthusiastically volunteered to fight are sellouts. The Yasukuni Shrine does a great disservice to many colonial subjects that were drafted by placing them into the shrine despite the objections from the families of those drafted victims. It is also worth noting that Lee Teng-Hui will be enshrined in the Yasukuni Shrine under his Japanese name, Iwasato Masao, much to his delight when he dies.

The government on Taiwan Province does not object because many in the power structure actually enjoyed a half-century of Japanese colonial rule and are still under the delusion that Japan will militarily intervene when China liberates the wayward province. In any event, Taiwan is still a joke with their schoolyard fights and with a government that only cares about their own agenda at the expense of everyone.


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