Shintaro Ishihara, Japanese politician who feuded with China, dies at 89 -NHK | WSAU News/Talk 550 AM 99.9 FM
By Elaine Lies
TOKYO (Reuters) – Shintaro Ishihara, a fiery nationalist who served as governor of Tokyo for more than a decade and sparked a territorial dispute with China over a plan to buy islands claimed by both nations , died on Tuesday, public television NHK announced. He was 89 years old.
An award-winning novelist before becoming a politician and serving in parliament for nearly 30 years, Ishihara’s tenure as governor of the Japanese capital was marked by controversy due to his outspoken right-wing views and penchant for the controversial comments about, for example, China, the LGBTQ community, foreigners and older women.
One of his most notorious remarks came after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that killed nearly 20,000 people, when he said the disaster was “divine punishment” for “the Japanese selfishness.
As recently as August 2020, he wrote in an essay that “almost all Japanese politicians are childish”, and sparked a furor with derogatory references on Twitter to patients with the terminal neurological disease ALS.
But his greatest legacy may have reignited a row with China over the East China Sea islands by proposing that Tokyo buy the rocky, uninhabited islets and raising some $19 million to do so, claiming that these were important Japanese resources.
The government eventually nationalized the islands in an attempt to defuse the situation, but the move backfired, sparking anti-Japanese protests and boycotts across China.
At a press conference in December 2014, Ishihara said, “It’s these guys who are trying to provoke a confrontation, by entering Japanese territories with their Chinese ships” – using a term for China that some say , had connotations of Japan’s militaristic past.
Ishihara also argued for a change to Japan’s pacifist constitution and said the country should have nuclear weapons as a deterrent against China and North Korea. He was a key force behind Tokyo’s successful bid for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, although he was no longer governor when the city won.
Born in Kanagawa Prefecture, just outside Tokyo, Ishihara achieved early fame as an author, winning the prestigious Akutagawa Prize for his racy novel, “The Season of the Sun,” while still a University student. In 1989, he co-wrote “The Japan That Can Say ‘No'” which called on Tokyo to stop following Washington’s lead on global issues.
Ishihara served in parliament from 1968 until 1995, when he resigned because lawmakers were pursuing “petty and selfish goals”. He became governor of Tokyo in 1999 and won four terms, but resigned in 2012 to form a new political party. He left politics in 2014.
Although his comments often got him into trouble, others admired his candor – including those who took to Twitter after news broke of his death to say today’s politicians should learn from him.
(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Christopher Cushing)