Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said it was thanks to Tokyo's colonization of Taiwan that the country today enjoys such high education standards, a report said yesterday.
Aso said he believed Japan "did a good thing" to Taiwan during its occupation, such as implementing a compulsory education system, the Kyodo News agency said.
"Thanks to the significant improvement in educational standards and literacy [during colonization], Taiwan is now a country with a very high education level and keeps up with the current era," Aso was quoted as saying to an audience in western city of Fukuoka.
"This is something I was told by an important figure in Taiwan and all the elderly people knew about it," Aso said.
"That was a time when I felt that, as expected, our predecessors did a good thing," he said.
Japan colonized Taiwan from 1895 to 1945 after China ceded Taiwan to Japan. During Japan's colonial rule, Taiwanese were forced to study and speak Japanese.
His remarks are likely to stir criticism, and also follow his comments that the Japanese emperor should visit a controversial Tokyo war shrine.
Aso last week said Emperor Akihito should visit the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan's war dead, including 14 men convicted as war criminals by the Allies after World War II.
Visits to the shrine by top Japanese officials have sparked outrage from China and South Korea, which see the shrine as the symbol of Japan's militarist past.
Japan's diplomatic relations with China have already been at low ebb because of visits to the shrine by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, anti-Japanese riots in China and a host of other issues.
Late wartime emperor Hirohito stopped visiting Yasukuni shrine after it enshrined top war criminals in 1978. Since becoming emperor in 1989, Akihito has refrained from going to the Shinto sanctuary, which has become a thorn in relations with neighboring nations.
Aso had said it would be "best" if the emperor visited the shrine instead of only Koizumi, who has angered China and South Korea with an annual pilgrimage there.
Aso said soldiers had gone to war saying "Long live the emperor" and not hailing the prime minister.
The Japanese government later signalled that Emperor Akihito was unlikely to visit the war shrine.
Foreign ministry officials in Beijing were not available for comment on Aso's latest remarks.
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