By Wang Xu in Tokyo and Zhou Jin in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2019-11-30 06:29

Yasuhiro Nakasone, a former Japanese prime minister who was widely regarded as a strong figure in politics, died on Friday in Tokyo at the age of 101, according to the office of his son Hirofumi Nakasone.

The office said Nakasone, who served as Japan’s prime minister from 1982 to 1987, passed away at a Tokyo hospital where he was recently treated.

In response to his death, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe praised Nakasone’s leadership.

“Nakasone held the post for five years when Japan was facing difficulties at home and abroad. He navigated Japan at a major turning point in postwar history,” Abe said, adding that Nakasone had strengthened Japan’s alliance with the United States through his personal bond with then-president Ronald Reagan.

On the domestic policy front, Abe said Nakasone “made administrative reforms his top priority and exercised strong leadership to carry them out and had made great achievements”, including privatizing national railways.

“I am deeply saddened by the news of Nakasone’s death and want to express my heartfelt condolences, together with the people,” he added.

The Chinese government expressed the country’s deep condolences on the passing of Nakasone and extended sincere sympathy to the family of the former Japanese prime minister.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily press briefing on Friday that Nakasone was a veteran diplomat with great vision who had been dedicated to friendly and substantial cooperation with China.

Nakasone made an official visit to China in 1984.

Born in Gunma Prefecture’s Takasaki City in 1918 as the son of a lumber merchant, Nakasone went to Tokyo Imperial University before entering the Interior Ministry and then the navy, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant commander during World War II.

Nakasone began his political career as a fiery nationalist denouncing the US occupation that lasted from 1945 to 1952, but by the 1980s he was a stalwart ally of the US known for his warm relations with Reagan, who died in 2004.

Nakasone boosted military spending and tried to revise Japan’s US-drafted pacifist constitution, but drew criticism for his unabashed appeals to patriotism.

In the 1950s, he was a driving force behind building nuclear reactors in resource-poor Japan, a move that helped propel Japan’s strong economic growth after World War II. However, that policy attracted renewed scrutiny after the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011.

AP contributed to this story.

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(China Daily 11/30/2019 page8)

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