• Kyodo

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Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said Sunday that he sees no problem with former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui’s visit Thursday to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, dismissing criticism from China about Lee’s recent trip to Japan.

“Mr. Lee is 84 years old and has retired to private life,” Aso said in a speech in Sendai, northeastern Japan. “His elder brother is honored at Yasukuni Shrine and I wonder what problem there is in his having visited it while he is still healthy.”

Lee’s brother died while serving in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II, when Taiwan was under Japanese colonial rule.

Just after the former Taiwan leader’s visit to the shrine, China expressed “strong dissatisfaction” with Japan for allowing Lee, a person it sees as a prominent pro-independence figure, to visit the country.

Aso emphasized that Japan has stuck to its one-China policy based on the Japan-China joint declaration of 1972, when Tokyo switched diplomatic ties from Taipei to Beijing.

He also praised the fact that democracy has taken root in Taiwan, saying it is the “only place in Chinese history” where there was a change in political administration through an election rather than a coup d’etat.

Lee, who led Taiwan from 1988 to 2000, wrapped up an 11-day trip to Japan on Saturday. The visit was his third to Japan since he stepped down as Taiwan’s president.

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