Political Career (November 1963-July 1998)

Keizo Obuchi began his career as a politician at the young age of 26, when he was elected to the House of Representatives in November 1963. He passed through the gateway to cabinet-level positions in 1970 with an appointment as parliamentary vice-minister of posts and telecommunications, and ever since he has remained involved in affairs related to information and communications.

In the years up to 1979 Obuchi picked up experience in a variety of posts within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. He served as head of the party's Youth Section, chairman of its lower house caucus, and deputy chairman of its Diet Affairs Committee. Within the National Diet he spent time as chairman of the Committee on Finance in the House of Representatives, and within the administration he worked as parliamentary vice-minister of construction and deputy director general of the Prime Minister's Office.

Entering the cabinet and announcing
the Heisei era

In November 1979, at the age of 42, he became director general of the Prime Minister's Office and director general of the Okinawa Development Agency, making him a minister of state for the first time. He returned to the cabinet in November 1987 as chief cabinet secretary in the Takeshita administration.

The Showa era (1926-89) came to an end with the passing away of Emperor Hirohito on January 7, 1989, and the Heisei era under Emperor Akihito began. It was Obuchi, serving as chief cabinet secretary, who announced the name of the new era. Many Japanese still remember seeing the broadcasts of his announcement. He then was involved in tax reform, a process that led to the introduction of the consumption tax later that year.

On the front lines of international politics
Subsequently Obuchi served in three key posts: secretary general of the LDP beginning in April 1991, vice-president of the LDP beginning in July 1994, and minister for foreign affairs beginning in September 1997, his third term of service as a minister of state.

Having traveled to as many as 38 countries while he was young, Obuchi is a political leader with firsthand knowledge of the importance of getting along with other countries. Before he became foreign minister, he organized a group to study international exchange at the regional level and devoted time to securing support for foreign students studying in Japan.

In September 1990 he headed a delegation of 51 legislators on a visit to the Soviet Union, and in June 1997 he headed a dialogue mission to Russia and Central Asia. On both these occasions he did his best to find a way to solve the issue of the Northern Territories--the Japanese islands off Hokkaido that are still in Russian hands. On a mission of Diet members he headed in January 1996 for monitoring Palestinian elections, he had meetings with such figures as Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Service as foreign minister
Shortly after becoming foreign minister Obuchi attended the fifty-second session of the United Nations General Assembly. He delivered a speech treating such subjects as U.N. reform. In November 1997 he went to the ninth ministerial meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, held in Vancouver, Canada, and there he discussed issues including economic and technological cooperation as well as trade. In December that year he went to Ottawa to sign the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.

In February 1998 Obuchi went to Russia, where he talked with President Boris Yeltsin about the Northern Territories, economic cooperation, and the conclusion of a peace treaty (which Japan and Russia have not yet signed since World War II). And in March he went to the Republic of Korea, where the talks focused on the bilateral partnership between Tokyo and Seoul and policy toward North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea).

Then, on July 30, 1998, Obuchi was designated Japan's eighty-fourth prime minister by the Diet.

Photos courtesy of Jiji Press and Kyodo News.

Photo Album
(January 1989-July 1998)

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