Taiwan's ex-president Lee to visit Japan

TAIPEI (AFP) - Former Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui, branded by China as a "splittist", will visit Japan next month after his planned trip last year was called off for health reasons, his office said Monday.

The 91-year-old, who is scheduled to depart on Sept 19, will visit Osaka and Tokyo and make speeches there.

The seven-day trip will also take Mr Lee to Hokkaido.

The Japan-educated Mr Lee was twice hospitalised last year, causing doctors to advise him against long-distance trips.

Mr Lee has visited Japan five times since he retired as president in 2000. Each trip triggered protests from China's communist government, which saw them as attempts to strengthen Taiwan's international status.

China, which still considers Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification, conducted missile tests in waters surrounding Taiwan in 1995 and 1996 in response to what it called Mr Lee's attempts to "split the motherland". The tests were seen as key to Mr Lee's victory in Taiwan's first direct presidential election.