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Thursday, 26 April, 2001, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Taiwan's Lee postpones US trip
Former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-Hui
Mr Lee was Taiwan's first directly-elected president
By Damian Grammaticas in Hong Kong

The former Taiwanese President, Lee Teng-hui, has postponed a controversial trip to the United States planned for next month.

He made the announcement as he arrived back in Taiwan after undergoing a heart operation in Japan.

China had criticised both Japan and the US for granting Mr Lee visas.

Mr Lee said the postponement was due to medical reasons.

Strained ties

Lee Teng-hui's visit to Japan had strained ties between Beijing and Tokyo.

US flag at embassy in China
US-China relations are already frayed over the spy plane crisis
His forthcoming trip to the US looked likely to the same to Sino-US ties.

On his return from Japan, he told reporters at Taipei's Chanbla Airport that he was now postponing his imminent trip to America.

"I need some time to rest," he said, after undergoing surgery in Japan to widen blocked arteries to his heart.

'Private citizen'

China views Mr Lee as one of the foremost advocates of independence for Taiwan.

destroyers
The US is going ahead with a controversial arms sale to Taiwan
Japan's decision to grant him entry for a medical check-up outraged Beijing, which has put off a visit to Tokyo by Li Peng, the second most senior figure in the country's political hierarchy.

The US said it was giving a visa to Taiwan's former president because he is now a private citizen.

Mr Lee said after his operation it would not be good for him to take such a long journey.

But his postponement comes as relations between Washington and Beijing are under strain because of America's arms sales to Taiwan and President George Bush's expressions of support for the island.

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See also:

23 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Taiwan hails Japan visa move
16 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan pressured over Taiwan visit
17 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan stalls over Taiwan visit
20 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Arrest further strains China-US ties
15 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
US warns China on missile build-up
21 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Q&A: Taiwan's relations with China
21 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
China demands US visa U-turn
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