Former Prime Minister Takeo Miki Dead At 81
TOKYO (AP) _ Former Prime Minister Takeo Miki, who was in the peace camp when it was unpopular in the 1930s and worked to keep monied interests from exerting undue influence in politics, died today of acute heart failure. He was 81.
Miki, hospitalized since June 1986 when he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, died this morning at Mitsui Memorial Hospital, his aides said.
″Mr. Miki was a politician who consistently carried out his work with integrity before, during and after World War II,″ Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita said in a television interview. ″His creed toward political ethics was a strong leadership ideal.″
Miki served in the House of Representatives for a record 51 consecutive years beginning in 1937, and was prime minister from 1974 to 1976.
Eishiro Saito, chairman of the powerful Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren), said in a statement that Miki was a ″walking dictionary″ of modern Japanese politics.
″His death comes at a time when the issue of trust in politics is being asked now,″ Saito added, referring to a stock scandal now rocking Japanese politics that involved scores of politicians and political aides who made huge profits by selling unlisted shares in a real estate firm before they were offered to the public.
Miki had a long-standing reputation as a pacifist he earned by speaking out against the possibility of war with the United States in 1938, at a time when militarists were ascendant in government and such sentiments were suppressed.
Throughout his career, he fought for political reforms, most prominently when he was the compromise choice for leadership of the Liberal Democratic Party and the premiership after the 1974 crisis caused by the resignation of Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka.
Tanaka had resigned over burgeoning financial scandals and public criticism of the party’s ″money politics.″
Miki’s selection was largely intended to refurbish the party’s tainted image because he was a stern foe within the party of Tanaka-style politics and he had the least ties to vested business interests.
He did not earn favor with all in the party, and he was once called ″the man closest to the opposition camp″ by Yasuhiro Nakasone, a political rival who later became prime minister.
While premier, Miki faced such major problems as the recession triggered by the 1973 ″oil shock″ and the so-called Lockheed scandal.
In February 1976, a U.S. Senate subcommittee disclosed multimillion-dollar payments allegedly made by the U.S.-based Lockheed Corp. to Japanese business and government figures to promote sales of its aircraft in Japan.
Miki vigorously pursued the investigation, and Tanaka eventually was tried and convicted for taking a bribe. Tanaka, who has since suffered a stroke and has appeals before the courts, has not gone to prison.
Miki’s campaign split the Liberal Democrats into pro- and anti-Miki camps, which campaigned separately for the House of Representatives elections in December 1976. The Liberal Democrats fell seven seats short of the 256 neeeded for a majority and had to enlist eight independents for a fragile majority.
Miki resigned to accept responsibility for the poor showing but retained his seat until the end.
A native of the southern island of Shikoku, where he was born March 17, 1907, Miki studied at the University of California at Berkeley and at Meiji University in Japan.
His major government positions included minister of international trade and industry in 1965-66 and foreign minister in 1966-67.
Miki is survived by his wife Mutsuko, two sons and one daughter. Buddhist funeral services will be held Thursday at the Zojoji Temple in Tokyo.