Gen Nakatani, picked Wednesday as defense minister, is a former Self-Defense Forces officer well-versed in defense and security policy, and an advocate of expanding the range of roles Japan can play in security overseas.
He was an instructor for an elite ranger unit before leaving the Ground Self-Defense Force in 1984.
In 2001, Nakatani became the first former SDF officer to serve as director general of the Defense Agency, the predecessor of the Defense Ministry, under Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. He oversaw emergency legislation governing Japan’s response in the event of a military attack.
Known as a defense lobbyist in the Liberal Democratic Party, the 57-year-old Nakatani played a central role in talks between the ruling parties as the administration sought support for its plan to reinterpret the Constitution.
Nakatani entered politics when he was elected to the Lower House in 1990, after serving as a secretary for three Diet members, including former Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa.
Miyazawa was finance minister when Nakatani served as a secretary.