Sen. John McCain's Vietnamese jailer said he respected his former inmate and felt sad about his death, as others in Vietnam paid their respects to the former U.S. Navy pilot who became a prisoner of war and later was instrumental in bringing the wartime foes together.

McCain's Skyhawk dive bomber was shot down over Hanoi in 1967 and he was taken prisoner and held in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" prison for more than five years.

Former Col. Tran Trong Duyet, who ran the prison at the time, said he met with McCain many times while he was confined there.

"At that time I liked him personally for his toughness and strong stance," he told the newspaper Vietnam News, published by the official Vietnam News Agency.

"Later on when he became a U.S. senator, he and Sen. John Kerry greatly contributed to promote Vietnam-U.S. relations so I was very fond of him," Vietnam News quoted Duyet as saying Sunday.

"When I learnt about his death early this morning, I feel very sad. I would like to send condolences to his family. I think it's the same feeling for all Vietnamese people as he has greatly contributed to the development of Vietnam-U.S. relations," Duyet was quoted as saying. McCain died on Saturday at age 81 in his home state of Arizona.