Azar ends Taiwan visit with tribute to its 1st democratic president

Taipei/Beijing, Aug 12 (efe-epa).- United States health secretary Alex Azar ended his visit to Taiwan on Wednesday with a tribute to the island’s first democratically elected president.

The trip has been condemned by China amid increasing tensions between Beijing and Washington.

Azar, the highest-ranking US official to make an official visit to Taipei since 1979, paid his respects to Lee Teng-hui, who died last month at the age of 97.

He visited a memorial to the former leader and wrote a message of condolence: “President Lee’s democratic legacy will forever propel the U.S.-Taiwan relationship forward.”

Lee was the first Taiwanese president elected in 1996 by universal and direct ballot.

Azar praised his work, describing him as “not only one of the great men in Taiwan’s history but in the broader history of Asia and the world’s march toward democracy”.

“The democratic legacy he built has made Taiwan a leader not only in freedom and economic growth but also in global health,” he added.

The politician ruled the island for 12 years after he took office in 1988 when he replaced the late Chiang Ching-kuo, whom he served as a vice president.

Leader of today’s opposition Nationalist Party or Kuomintang, Lee continued to support the process of democratization of the island.

Azar was accompanied by Taiwanese foreign minister Joseph Wu, whom he met with on Tuesday, and William Brent Christensen, director of the American Institute in Taiwan’s Taipei office.

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