Taiwan's security in its standoff with China is crucial to Japan, former president Lee Teng-hui (
"Japan and Taiwan are mutual partners. If anything happens to Taiwan, Japan will quickly feel the consequences," he told reporters in Tokyo.
Lee, who arrived in Japan on Wednesday on a cultural visit, said the standoff between Taiwan and China had serious implications for Japan.
"The Taiwan Strait problem also greatly affects Japan," Lee said.
"I urge politicians to ... keep up Taiwan-Japan relations with the understanding that Taiwan is indispensable for Japan," he said.
On Wednesday, Beijing accused the 84-year-old former president of using his 11-day visit to push for Taiwanese independence and trying to undermine China-Japan relations.
At the same time, China warned Japan that Lee's trip could damage relations between their nations. Japan maintains official diplomatic relations with Beijing, but not with Taiwan. China regularly opposes visits by Taiwanese former and current officials to countries with which it has diplomatic ties.
Earlier this week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stressed that Lee's visit was private and that he did not expect it to hurt Tokyo's relations with Beijing.
Lee was yesterday awarded the first Goto Shimpei Prize by a Japanese publisher for his contribution to Taiwan's urbanization and democratization.
The event was organized by Fijiwara Shoten's Goto Shimpei Organization to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of the late Japanese colonial administrator Goto Shimpei. The prize is awarded to people who have contributed to national or regional development.
Delivering a speech titled "Goto Shimpei and I" during the ceremony, Lee said that Goto made a great contribution to Taiwan's modernization during his service as the chief of civil administration under the Japanese colonial government in Taiwan between 1898 and 1906.
Lee said that although his life hardly overlapped with that of Goto, he has been profoundly influenced by Goto's achievements in Taiwan and his extraordinary philosophy of life.
"It is not an exaggeration to say that Taiwan's development has moved forward along the track paved by Goto," Lee said, adding that his Japanese education had allowed him to become mayor of Taipei City, governor of the then Taiwan Province, vice president and even president.
Lee said what he prides himself in most is his success in the transformation of Taiwan's political system from a military dictatorship into a democracy without a single drop of blood being shed in his 12 years as president.
There are two kinds of politicians, he added: those who engage in the pursuit of power and those who aim to serve the people.
He said that politicians who were not subject to the temptation of power did not become corrupt.
Just like Goto, Lee said, he exercised self-restraint and was always ready to relinquish power during his presidency.
Saying that faith was one of the most important qualities of a leader, Lee added that love and justice are what he believes in as a Christian.
Lee further said that although he and Goto may be different in terms of their religious beliefs, having strong faith is what they have in common and what connects them spiritually.
This is Lee's third trip to Japan since his presidency ended in May 2000.