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Japan Premier Gives Top Post to Takeshita

October 20, 1987|SAM JAMESON | Times Staff Writer

TOKYO — Japan's Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone today named Noboru Takeshita, 63, a traditional consensus-builder, to succeed him.

Three candidates entrusted Nakasone with the decision after a round of talks stretching over more than 12 hours failed to produce agreement on who should be the new president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Under Japan's parliamentary-style government, the leader of the party with the majority of seats in Parliament also becomes prime minister.

Nakasone responded by choosing Takeshita (pronounced Tah-kay-sh'tah), who commands the largest faction of followers within the party that has ruled Japan since 1955.

Takeshita, who is now the party's secretary general, had served Nakasone as finance minister for three years and eight months. He said his reaction was one of "tension."

"I feel that a great burden has been placed upon my back," he said. "Its weight is pressing down upon my shoulders. . . . I feel I must devote my life to the nation, to the people and to world peace."

Nakasone, announcing his decision after midnight through the party's deputy secretary general, gave no reasons for his choice. But it was obvious that the 69-year-old premier, whose term ends Oct. 30, aligned himself with the results of 12 days of talks among the three candidates for the party's top post.

In an eight-hour meeting with Takeshita on Monday, Shintaro Abe, 63, the party's executive board chairman, refused to bow out of the race but declared that he would remain "allied" with Takeshita against Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, 68, the third candidate. The combination gave the two a commanding edge over Miyazawa and offered the greatest prospect for party stability.

Miyazawa was excluded from the marathon Takeshita-Abe meeting, although earlier he had participated in six rounds of talks with his two rivals in an attempt to avert a vote among the party's 445 members of Parliament that had been scheduled for today.

The three aspirants met for a seventh time shortly before 10 a.m. Monday and agreed to ask Nakasone to make the choice among them "without conditions." They also handed over letters declaring that they were dropping out of the party president's race and promised to abide by Nakasone's decision and uphold party unity.

Two Letters Accepted

After Nakasone made his decision, only Takeshita's letter was returned, while the other two were accepted.

Without naming his preferences, Nakasone recommended that the losers be appointed to posts as deputy prime minister and secretary general of the ruling party. Miyazawa was expected to be named deputy premier, while Abe was reported to be in line for the party job.

The Liberal Democratic Party will hold a convention Oct. 31 to formalize Nakasone's appointment of Takeshita as party president for a two-year term. It will then convene a special session of Parliament, probably around Nov. 6, to vote him into office as prime minister.

Takeshita earlier had pledged to continue Nakasone's policies, including the prime minister's program to transform Japan's economy from one driven by exports into one reliant upon economic growth at home. Like his rivals, Takeshita is committed to Japan's alliance with the United States but, over the years, has displayed no interest in or knowledge of defense issues.

Noted as Fund Raiser

The son of a sake (rice wine) brewer who became an unlicensed English teacher in a Shimane prefecture junior high school before entering politics, Takeshita developed his chief expertise in political tactics as a lieutenant in factions headed by the late Prime Minister Eisaku Sato and by former Prime Minister Kakeui Tanaka. He is noted for his ability to raise political funds rather than to make policy.

Takeshita has likened the role of prime minister to that of a "master of ceremonies" presiding over traditional consensus-making discussions. By contrast, Nakasone said he preferred a presidential-style of leadership as prime minister.

Unlike both of his rivals, who were graduated from the prestigious state-run Tokyo University, Takeshita obtained a business degree from Waseda University, a private school.

He has promoted only one policy idea--more a slogan than a policy--of making all of the Japanese archipelago "a hometown" by spreading urban-like conveniences and access to cultural activities and job opportunities throughout the country.

Takeshita's experience in diplomacy came in serving twice as finance minister--from November, 1979 to July, 1980, and from November, 1982, in Nakasone's first Cabinet, until July, 1986. He represented Japan at the Group of Five meeting in New York in September, 1985, at which the finance chiefs of the world's five leading industrial nations approved a policy of driving down the value of the dollar.

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