Former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori met with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday before attending a memorial service the next day for late Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui, who died in July.
Mori led a delegation of parliamentarians comprising members of a cross-party group and officials of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, Japan's de facto mission in Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic ties, to pay their respects to Lee at a memorial in Taipei on Aug. 9.
Calling Mori and his delegation Taiwan's "old friends, good friends," Tsai expressed gratitude for their visit.
Lee, Taiwan's first popularly elected leader, died aged 97 on July 30 and his body was cremated on Aug. 14. He will be buried at Wuchihshan Military Cemetery in New Taipei City on Oct. 7.
Tsai said she was moved by the condolence message Mori read at Lee's memorial last month and believes his friendship with Lee would be passed on to the next generation and help strengthen the friendly relationship between Taiwan and Japan.
Lee 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.
On Yoshihide Suga, Japan's new prime minister, Tsai congratulated him, while thanking his predecessor Shinzo Abe for helping deepen relations between Taiwan and Japan.
Mori also relayed Suga's message to Tsai, saying, "If there is an opportunity, I would like to speak (with Tsai) over the phone."
Mori, who served as prime minister from 2000 to 2001 and retired from politics in 2012 after four decades as a lawmaker, said he was asked by Abe to visit Taiwan again to attend Lee's memorial service and that he "gladly accepted."
He also said Suga telephoned him Thursday morning and asked him to convey his greetings to Tsai and his hope that exchanges between Japan and Taiwan would continue to advance smoothly.
"Japan and Taiwan share the same values of freedom and democracy. I hope we can continue to deepen our exchanges on various fronts," he said.
Mori, who currently serves as Tokyo Olympic organizing committee president, and Tsai exchanged the Olympic team uniforms of Japan and Taiwan. Tsai also presented Mori with a gift of a limited-edition Taipei subway card featuring the Tokyo Olympics.
Tsai told Mori that Taiwanese people are not only looking forward to the games being held smoothly next year but are also hoping the competitors from Taiwan and Japan will perform well.