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MOFA regretful over fracas at airport

MOFA regretful over fracas at airport

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday expressed regret over an altercation that erupted a day earlier between a group of visiting Taipei City councilors and Taiwanese officials at Japan's Narita International Airport over privileged treatment, saying that the Japanese government has its own protocol regarding courtesies to visiting foreign officials.The ministry was referring to an issue involving a group of Taipei City councilors, who arrived in Tokyo Monday as part of a delegation led by opposition Kuomintang Chairman and Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), and complained that they were not given the same courtesy immigration clearance at the airport as Ma and other members of the visiting group, including KMT spokeswoman Cheng Li-wen (鄭麗文) and several legislators.
KMT councilwoman Chen Yu-mei initiated the complaint, saying that the visit was aimed at facilitating exchanges between Taipei and various Japanese cities and was not organized as a trip to improve interactions between political parties or lawmakers.
Lee Ching-yuan (李慶元), a Taipei City Councilor from the New Party, complained to officials from Taiwan's representative office in Japan who were in charge of receiving the delegation at the airport.
Lee said that he was displeased at the fact that Cheng and KMT legislators could be given the same kind of respect as Ma, whereas Taipei City councilors, who should be considered as the official members of the group, had to wait in line like ordinary tourists for the inspection by immigration officers.
Another KMT Councilman Chen Yung-te said that Taiwan's representative office in Japan had refused to admit its mistakes and had greatly hurt the councilors' dignity. The enraged Chen threatened that he would not attend the welcoming banquet hosted by the representative office and claimed that he would "settle the matter" with the MOFA when he returns to Taiwan.
Tsai Ming-yao, the official who received the delegation at the airport, later joined the verbal protest, which lasted for more than 10 minutes.
MOFA Spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said that Japan has its own standards to determine who should receive privileged treatment and that it is hard for Taiwan to use "domestic means" to influence the Japanese government.
"The Japanese government only grants courtesy treatment to parliamentarians and central government officials above the rank of department chief," Lu said.
"This involves a country's sovereignty, and we respect the Japanese government," he added.
Lu said he believed the misunderstanding would be cleared up after Taiwan's representative office in Japan explains the situation to the councilors, adding that he hopes the MOFA would handle similar incidents in a better manner in the future.
Lee issued a statement last night, apologizing for his behavior, which he said had presented a poor image in the local media, but claimed that his argument was reasonable.
He also said that Tsai's verbal confrontation had violated international protocol.
Also yesterday, ruling Democratic Progressive Party Spokesman Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) urged Ma, as the leader of the 23-person delegation, to publicly apologize for the "embarrassing" behavior of his delegation members.