Seisuke Okuno, a former Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker known for his controversial views on Japan’s wartime aggression against other Asian countries, died at his home in Tokyo on Wednesday, the LDP said Thursday. He was 103.
Okuno, a native of Nara Prefecture, began his career as a government bureaucrat in 1938. He won his first House of Representatives seat in 1963 and was re-elected 12 times.
In 1988, Okuno stepped down from the post of chief of the old National Land Agency after he said Japan had “no intention to invade” China and the 1937 Marco Polo Bridge Incident, which triggered the Second Sino-Japanese War, was an “accident.”
Okuno headed a cross-party group of Diet lawmakers who visit Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine. He also assumed key Cabinet posts such as justice minister and education minister before he retired from politics in 2003 at the age of 90.
The outspoken politician had slammed China and South Korea for criticizing then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to the shrine, saying they were “interfering in Japan’s domestic affairs.”
The two Asian countries see the shrine as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism as it honors convicted war criminals along with millions of war dead.
In 2001, Okuno criticized China and South Korea for repeatedly demanding revisions to controversial history textbooks in Japan and also called such action “foreign interference in domestic affairs.” He said he did not think Japan should cave in to such pressure.
In 1996, he drew fire by saying that women forced to work in wartime brothels for the Japanese military provided sex as a “commercial activity.”
In a news conference last November, Okuno called for a new Constitution that reflects the current situation facing Japan and the world.
The current Constitution, drafted during the U.S.-led occupation of Japan after World War II, has remained unaltered since its promulgation in November 1946.
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