Japanese diplomatic luminary Okamoto dead at 74

TOKYO — Yukio Okamoto, a diplomatic expert who advised two Japanese prime ministers on issues ranging from the return of a U.S. military base in Okinawa to Iraq reconstruction, died in late April. He was 74.

Okamoto had contracted the coronavirus, a Japanese government source said.

A graduate of Hitotsubashi University, Okamoto joined Japan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry in 1968. The career diplomat served in many critical posts including director of the ministry’s National Security Affairs Division and the First North America Division.

After retiring from the ministry in 1991, he founded foreign policy consultancy Okamoto Associates and continued to provide insights into Japan’s national security strategy and its relationship with the U.S.

Okamoto was appointed as a special adviser in 1996 to then-Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. He helped coordinate communication between the national and Okinawan governments regarding plans to relocate the U.S. Marines’ Futenma air base, as well as on measures to boost Okinawa’s economy.

He also served as special adviser to then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in the early 2000s, visiting Iraq to help craft Japan’s assistance measures for the country.

More recently, Okamoto was part of a private advisory panel formed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2015 as the leader drafted a crucial speech commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Okamoto served as a senior research fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for International Studies until his death.

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