Yukio Okamoto, a diplomacy analyst who had been an adviser to past prime ministers, died on April 24 after contracting coronavirus, a government source said Thursday. He was 74.
Okamoto, a former Foreign Ministry official, had also been a senior research fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for International Studies. He also taught at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto.
In Washington, experts on Japan who formerly served in the U.S. government mourned the loss of Okamoto, who was described as having “steered the U.S.-Japan alliance over many decades” through both good and bad times in a commentary released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“Yukio was a giant in Japan-U.S. relations … a diplomat who always did his best for his nation,” former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was quoted as saying in the commentary by the Washington-based think tank where he serves as a board member.
He served as adviser to Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto between 1996 and 1998 and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi between 2003 and 2004.
Under the Hashimoto administration, Okamoto was in charge of issues related to Okinawa, mediating talks between the central government and the Okinawa Prefectural Government over such issues as the relocation plan for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and promotion of the local economy.
Under Koizumi’s leadership, Okamoto led preparatory work for Japan to provide reconstruction assistance to Iraq.
In 2015, he served as a member of a private advisory panel to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to craft Abe’s statement on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
Okamoto “worked to forge a stronger alliance in the 1980s with only a handful of officials and politicians in support” and was a “maverick” in a “bureaucracy conditioned to avoid entrapment in U.S. Cold War strategies,” said the commentary.
It was jointly written by Michael Green, a CSIS senior vice president who formerly worked on the National Security Council, and Kurt Campbell, former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.
His legacy is obvious when seeing that the current Japanese Foreign Ministry is “full of diplomats who think the way he did,” the commentary said.
A native of Kanagawa Prefecture, Okamoto joined the Foreign Ministry in 1968 and served in key posts such as director of the First North America Division before leaving the ministry in 1991.
He also appeared on TV programs as a diplomacy commentator.