Koken Nosaka, 79, a former top government spokesman under Japan's first Socialist prime minister since 1948, died Sunday in Tokyo of pneumonia and kidney failure.
First elected to Parliament's lower house from southern Tottori prefecture in 1972, Nosaka was a senior lawmaker in the left-leaning Socialist Democratic Party when he helped end political turmoil by brokering a once-unthinkable alliance among his party, the conservative Liberal Democratic Party and the now-defunct Sakigake Party in June 1994.
Under the three-party bloc, Tomiichi Murayama, from the SDP, became the first Socialist prime minister in nearly half a century -- following the demise of the scandal-plagued Liberal Democrats. Murayama named Nosaka construction minister.
In 1995, Nosaka became chief cabinet secretary, serving as the government's top spokesman during such events as the Kobe earthquake that killed more than 6,000 people, and a doomsday cult's nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway that killed 12 people and sickened more than 5,500.