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Ex-Japan PM Yasuhiro Nakasone dies at 101

Yasuhiro Nakasone (Mainichi)
This file photo taken on Nov. 11, 1983 shows Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone providing an explanation on autumn foliage to U.S. President Ronald Reagan at Nakasone's vacation home in the Tokyo suburban town of Hinode. (Pool photo)

TOKYO -- Former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, who promoted "comprehensive evaluation of postwar politics" and carried out administrative and fiscal reforms, died at a Tokyo hospital on Nov. 29. He was 101.

Nakasone served at the helm of the Japanese government for nearly five years from November 1982 to November 1987 toward the end of the Cold War.

Nakasone promoted top-level diplomacy including his "Ron-Yasu" relationship with then U.S. President Ronald Reagan. He also played a leading role in splitting the debt-ridden Japanese National Railways (JNR) into six regional passenger companies and a nationwide freight company in April 1987.

He made his debut in the political arena when he was elected to his first term as a member of the House of Representatives from the then Gunma No. 3 constituency in a 1947 election -- the last held under the previous Constitution. He was re-elected 20 consecutive times and served as a legislator for over 56 years until he retired in 2003.

Since he was young, he had been known as an outspoken debater, and was dubbed a "young officer." He assumed key posts in the Cabinet and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) -- including as transport minister, international trade and industry minister as well as LDP secretary-general and chairman of the party's General Council.

Nakasone became prime minister in November 1982. Under the slogan, "comprehensive evaluation of postwar politics," he transformed the Japan-U.S. relationship into one more like a military alliance.

After his Cabinet approved a decision to treat Japan's supply of weapons technology to the United States as an exception to the Three Principles of Weapons Exports, Nakasone visited the United States in January 1983. At the time, he suggested that Japan could be turned into an "unsinkable aircraft carrier," stirring controversy both in Japan and overseas.

On Aug. 15, 1985, Nakasone became the first postwar prime minister to pay an official visit to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine where Class-A war criminals are enshrined along with the war dead. However, he abandoned doing so later in his capacity as premier following a sharp backlash from China and other countries.

In 1986, he dissolved the lower house to call a general election to coincide with a House of Councillors election, leading the LDP to an overwhelming victory particularly in the lower house.

Because of Nakasone's role in leading the LDP to the election victory, the LDP extended his term as LDP leader, which was to expire later that year, by one year.

Toward the end of his term in February 1987, the Nakasone Cabinet submitted bills to introduce a sales tax, but was forced to kill the plan in response to stiff opposition from small- and medium-sized businesses.

Before the November 2003 lower house race, then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi advised Nakasone to retire as a legislator. Nakasone initially rejected the request, but later complied and abandoned running in the election.

Even after retiring as a legislator, he was active in political activities, serving as head of a subcommittee in the LDP's new Constitution-drafting panel.

(Mainichi)

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