• Kyodo

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Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori met with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei on Sunday before paying tribute to former President Lee Teng-hui, who died late last month.

During their talks at the presidential office, a portion of which was streamed live, Mori conveyed to Tsai condolences from current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, adding that the premier asked him to tell Tsai his heartfelt gratitude for Lee’s guidance for Japan.

Lee “had attached importance to Taiwan-Japan relations,” Tsai said, expressing gratitude for the visit by the Japanese delegation led by Mori.

Mori and other members of the delegation will later visit the nearby Taipei Guest House, where a memorial has been set up for mourners to pay their respects to the late Taiwanese leader.

While not being designated as a special envoy of the Japanese government or of Abe, Mori would “effectively act on behalf of the premier,” a lawmaker from Abe’s party told a news conference before his visit.

The lawmaker, Keiji Furuya, who heads a cross-party group of legislators seeking to strengthen Japan-Taiwan relations, explained then that Mori would visit Taiwan now because they heard Lee’s funeral would not be held until around mid-September.

The delegation led by Mori comprised members of the cross-party lawmaker group and officials of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, Japan’s de facto mission in Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.

Mori’s day trip to the island involved a chartered aircraft to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Calling Mori a “long-time friend of Taiwan,” Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry has described his visit as signifying Japan’s firm support for close and friendly relations between Taiwan and Japan.

Lee, Taiwan’s first popularly elected leader, died on July 30 at age 97. He ruled from 1988 to 2000 and 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.

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