Former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, a conservative politician who died Friday at the age of 101, is recognized in China as a leader who, in the 1980s, helped usher in a so-called honeymoon-like period in bilateral relations.
In 1985, however, he made an official visit as Japanese prime minister to the war-linked Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, where convicted Class-A war criminals are enshrined along with the war dead, sparking controversy between the two nations.
(Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, left, and Hu Yaobang, general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, hold talks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in November 1986.)
Nakasone, who served as prime minister of Japan from November 1982 to November 1987, is known for building a solid relationship of trust with the late Hu Yaobang, a former general secretary of China's Communist Party.
Later Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press conference in Beijing that Nakasone was "enthusiastic about friendly exchanges and pragmatic cooperation with China during his lifetime."
Nevertheless, his visit to Yasukuni shrine on Aug. 15, 1985 -- the 40th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II -- triggered anti-Japan demonstrations in China, which forced Hu, who adopted a pro-Japanese attitude, into a corner.
Hu was eventually sacked as general secretary of the Communist Party in 1987. Since then, many Chinese political leaders, including incumbent President Xi Jinping, have been inclined to take a hardline stance against Japan, foreign affairs experts say.
In South Korea, meanwhile, Nakasone is branded as a conservative lawmaker by some anti-Japanese groups in light of his official visit to Yasukuni shrine.
But Nakasone became the first sitting Japanese prime minister to visit the neighboring country since the end of Japan's 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula, and he made efforts to improve Tokyo-Seoul relations.
Among South Korean conservatives, who emphasize on ties with Japan, Nakasone is touted as the "representative of pro-South Korea politicians."
(File photo taken in Tokyo on Aug. 15, 1985, shows Yasuhiro Nakasone making the first official visit to the war-linked Yasukuni shrine as a postwar Japanese prime minister, on the 40th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II.)