SINGAPORE: Former prime minister Yasuhiro Nakasone was “one of Japan’s great leaders”, said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a condolence letter on Saturday (Nov 30).
Mr Nakasone, one of Japan’s longest reigning premiers, died at the age of 101, a party official said last Friday.
In a letter to his son Hirofumi Nakasone, Mr Lee said he was saddened to learn of the news.
“Prime Minister Nakasone was a good friend of Singapore, and a personal friend of Mr Lee Kuan Yew,” PM Lee wrote.
“He met Mr Lee on a visit to Singapore in May 1983, and reciprocated the hospitality when Mr Lee visited Japan in October 1986.
“Mr Lee found his direct and forthright exchanges with Prime Minister Nakasone to be refreshing. Their strong personal relationship contributed to the firm foundation underpinning our strong bilateral ties today.”
During his term in office, Mr Nakasone pursued “important economic reforms”, including the privatisation of national railways, telecommunications and tobacco industries, said Mr Lee.
These reforms left a lasting legacy in Japan, the Prime Minister said.
“He was also an international statesman. As (prime minister), he strengthened Japan’s alliance with the US, and maintained Japan’s relations with China on an even keel,” Mr Lee added.
“This contributed to stability and peace in Asia during the Cold War years.”
He described Mr Nakasone's role in fostering closer relations between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Japan, including visiting all ASEAN nations in 1983.
“His legacy lives on, with Japan building on that foundation and continuing to be a strong supporter and partner of ASEAN,” PM Lee added.
Mr Lee and Mr Nakasone met several times - the first in 1985, when the then Japanese prime minister hosted ASEAN trade ministers in Tokyo.
“The last occasion was about 10 years ago, when he had long retired, but was still active in his foundation and tracking international affairs as closely and astutely as ever,” Mr Lee wrote in his letter.
“Prime Minister Nakasone will be deeply remembered by Singapore. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this time of grief.”