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Ex-Japanese PM Abe hopes to visit grave of Taiwan's 'Father of Democracy'

Ministry of Foreign Affairs thanks Abe, offers assistance on future visit to Lee Teng-hui's final resting place

Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. 

Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo.  (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In a recent interview, former Japanese prime minister Abe Shinzo expressed a desire to visit the final resting place of Taiwan's first popularly elected president, Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), "if conditions allow."

The Sankei Shimbun interviewed Abe on Wednesday (July 28) ahead of the first anniversary of Lee's death. The "father of democracy" passed away on July 30, 2020, at the age of 97. His death was met with condolences from international leaders friendly to Taiwan, including Abe, the Dalai Lama, and then-U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The day after Lee's passing, Abe expressed "profound sadness," saying the former president had made tremendous contributions to the amicable relationship between Taiwan and Japan.

During Wednesday's interview, Abe recalled his interactions with Lee since 1994, saying that no other leader in the world had cared for the well-being of Japan as much as Lee.

Japan's longest-serving prime minister then expressed his desire to visit Lee's grave "if conditions allow." He said he would take the state of the COVID-19 pandemic into consideration before planning the trip.

Lee was buried at a national cemetery for veterans and high-ranking officials on the outskirts of Taipei.

This is not the first time Abe has expressed his wish to visit Taiwan since leaving office. In late 2020, East Asia Parliamentary Friendship Association head Kuo Kuo-wen (郭國文) revealed that Abe was willing to fly to the country as soon as 2021, at the invitation of seven Taiwanese legislators belonging to various parties.

Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Wednesday expressed gratitude for Abe's amity toward Taiwan and its former president. In a statement, it welcomed Abe's visit and offered all necessary assistance to make the trip happen.