China has denied visas to three Japanese members of a Taiwanese symphony orchestra ahead of a planned mainland tour, an official said on Friday, linking the move to a simmering territorial row.
The National Symphony Orchestra, Taiwan’s leading classical ensemble, plans to go ahead with its visit to China despite the visa denials, which come amid tension between Beijing and Tokyo over an island cluster in the East China Sea.
“The Japanese musicians didn’t get the visas probably because of the timing around the Diaoyu island controversy,” said a staff member of the orchestra, using the Chinese name for the islands known as Senkaku in Japanese.
“We are still trying as there are three more weeks before the tour,” she said, adding the orchestra, which has over 90 members, would be able to perform even without the participation of the three Japanese.
The orchestra is scheduled to perform in Beijing, Shanghai and the east Chinese city of Wuxi as part of an East Asia tour.
Tensions over the islands escalated last month after Tokyo nationalised three of them, causing a wave of angry protests in China which also claims the islands.
Japan administers the uninhabited but strategically well-positioned archipelago, which lies in rich fishing grounds and on key shipping lanes in the East China Sea.
Taipei too claims the islands and dozens of Taiwanese fishing boats escorted by coastguard vessels traded water cannon fire with Japanese vessels around the disputed islands last month.