Toshiki Kaifu, who was Japan's prime minister for about two years from 1989, died earlier this month, the government said Friday. He was 91.

Kaifu, best known for sending the Maritime Self-Defense Force to the Persian Gulf in 1991, died Sunday of natural causes, the House of Representatives said.

"He dedicated himself to tackling many policy challenges amid a turbulent international situation, including the outbreak of the Persian Gulf War," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said in offering condolences during a regular news conference.