Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday offered words of condolence for former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui who died the previous day at age 97, praising him for fostering relations with Japan.
“President Lee Teng-hui made great contributions to enhancing friendly ties between Japan and Taiwan,” Abe told reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office.
“The president’s death is truly regrettable and I pray for his soul from the bottom of my heart,” Abe said, adding that Lee advanced freedom, democracy and human rights in Taiwan.
Lee, who had been in a coma since Feb. 17, was pronounced dead at 7:24 p.m. Thursday at Taipei Veterans General Hospital. The hospital gave the cause of death as multiple organ failure.
Lee played a key role in the self-ruled island’s democratization. He grew up under Japanese rule in Taiwan, which lasted from 1895 to 1945, and was known for his affinity for Japan.
“Japanese people have special feelings of closeness to him as a person who built the foundation of Japan-Taiwan relations,” Abe said.
Japan has developed nongovernmental, working-level relations with Taiwan over the years. The Asian neighbors now enjoy close economic ties and increased people-to-people exchanges.