Japanese Leader Kiichi Miyazawa, 87

By Kozo Mizoguchi
Associated Press
Friday, June 29, 2007

Kiichi Miyazawa, 87, a Japanese statesman who served as prime minister from 1991 until 1993, died June 28 at his home in Tokyo. No cause of death was reported.

Mr. Miyazawa was first elected to parliament in 1953. He returned to high-profile politics late in life in 1998, when he was named finance minister by then-Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi. He retired in 2003.

Mr. Miyazawa became well-known in the United States in 1992 when then-President George H.W. Bush fell ill during a state dinner in Tokyo and vomited on him. Video showed Mr. Miyazawa holding the president's head as first lady Barbara Bush wiped his face.

Despite being at the helm as prime minister during Japan's long-term economic malaise, Mr. Miyazawa was well-regarded as an architect of the government's plan to bail out its debt-laden banking system.

However, his term as premier was short, ending as he was hounded by scandal and toppled as leader of the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Mr. Miyazawa came from a family of prominent politicians. His father was a member of parliament; his grandfather was a Cabinet minister. One brother was a one-time governor and another an ambassador. He was related through marriage to two former prime ministers.

Mr. Miyazawa was educated at the prestigious Tokyo University and later joined the Finance Ministry. He acted as interpreter in Washington talks between Japan's finance minister and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles after World War II.

He later served as director-general of the Economic Planning Agency, minister of international trade and industry, chief Cabinet secretary and foreign minister.

During his first stint as finance minister in the late 1980s, Mr. Miyazawa suffered his first real brush with scandal when he had to resign in connection with an influence-buying affair.

Still, he managed a comeback, gaining the prime minister post in November 1991 with the backing of Shin Kanemaru, a legendary kingpin of LDP backroom politics.

Mr. Miyazawa's government began to unravel when he lost a vote of confidence in 1993 after failing to enact promised anti-corruption measures. The LDP fared badly in a snap election, losing the lower-house majority it had held since 1955.

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