Yoshitada Konoike, a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker best known for his role as chair of a Diet panel that debated controversial security bills, has died, sources close to him said Tuesday. He was 78.
A House of Councilors member, Konoike presided over debates in the Upper House’s special committee in 2015 that paved the way for contentious legislation allowing Japanese troops to fight overseas for the first time since World War II.
The native of Hyogo Prefecture first won his Diet seat in 1986 when he ran in a House of Representatives election after heading a junior chamber of commerce. Losing the seat in the 1993 general election, he switched to the Upper House in 1995 and held his seat for four consecutive terms.
Konoike became the minister for disaster management under former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, and also assumed the post of deputy chief Cabinet secretary under the premiership of Taro Aso.
Most recently, his name surfaced at the height of a scandal about the murky 2016 sale of state land to a school operator with links to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife.
Konoike met with officials of the school operator, Moritomo Gakuen, in 2014. Holding a news conference last year, he denied having lobbied the Finance Ministry on behalf of the operator over the sale of the land in Osaka Prefecture at a sharply reduced price.
The date and cause of Konoike’s death are not immediately known.
In May he had cited health problems and his advanced age when announcing that he would retire from politics by not running in next year’s Upper House election.