Fukuda, Yasuo


Fukuda, Yasuo
▪ 2008

born July 16, 1936, , Tokyo, Japan

      Following the resignation of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the wake of a massive defeat for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the July 2007 elections to the upper house of the Diet (parliament), leaders of eight of the nine LDP factions urged Yasuo Fukuda to run for the party presidency. With their backing, Fukuda, the son of former prime minister Takeo Fukuda, was selected as LDP leader over former foreign minister Taro Aso in a party vote held on September 23. The LDP-controlled lower house of the Diet then chose Fukuda to become prime minister, and he formally took office on September 26. According to some political analysts, Fukuda's ascent was significant in that it represented a strong reemergence by the factional leaders, whose decision-making power had been limited during the prime ministership (2001–06) of Junichiro Koizumi.

      Fukuda was one of a dwindling number of Japanese politicians who had direct experience with World War II. Except for his father, who was serving as a high official in the Finance Ministry in Tokyo, his family fled the capital in 1945 to escape the U.S. fire-bombings of major Japanese cities. The family home in Tokyo was, in fact, destroyed in an air raid. After the war Fukuda returned with his family to Tokyo, where he went on to study at Waseda University. Upon his graduation in 1959, he landed a job with the Maruzen Oil Co. (now Cosmo Oil). The company posted him to the U.S. between 1962 and 1964.

      During his father's prime ministership (1976–78), Fukuda served as his chief secretary. He was elected to the Diet in 1990, taking over his father's seat in the lower house. He later served as chief cabinet secretary under both Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori (2000–01) and Koizumi (2001–04). From 2005 until his elevation to prime minister, he led a number of committees within the LDP.

      Fukuda took over the prime ministership at the same age, 71, at which his father had assumed the post. They were the only father and son to have shared the country's highest office. The younger Fukuda came to the job with the reputation as a moderate conservative—and as a diplomatic leader who was expected to improve relations with China. Unlike Koizumi, who had ignored Chinese and Korean objections and insisted on visiting the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where 14 Class-A Japanese war criminals were honoured, Fukuda announced that he had no plans to visit the shrine, stating that “there is no need to do things that others hate.” The new prime minister was on record as saying he would seek to strengthen relations with other Asian countries as well and would address nagging problems at home, such as income inequality between urban and rural areas and Japan's rising public debt.

Sam Jameson

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Universalium. 2010.

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