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Yukio Okamoto, special aide to prime ministers, dies of COVID-19

Yukio Okamoto, a former diplomat who played a key role in bridging the government and Okinawa Prefecture with regard to the U.S. bases issue, died from the new coronavirus late last month, official sources said. He was 74.


Okamoto became the country’s first special adviser to the prime minister in 1996 in the administration headed by Ryutaro Hashimoto after the United States agreed to the return of land to Japan occupied by the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture.


As special adviser, he traveled back and forth between Tokyo and Okinawa to craft measures to stimulate the southernmost prefecture’s economy and settle issues raised by the proposed relocation of the Futenma facility in Ginowan to elsewhere in the prefecture.


He chose to take the post in a part-time capacity without remuneration, saying it would allow him to “speak up independently.”


Okamoto was born in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1945. He joined the Foreign Ministry in 1968 after graduating from Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo with a degree in economics.


Although he had assumed influential posts at the ministry as an official specializing in Japan-U.S. relations, he resigned from the ministry in 1991.


Later, he managed a consulting firm and became a diplomatic critic.


In 2001, he served in the administration headed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi as special adviser to the Cabinet, advising on diplomatic issues.


Two years later, he became special adviser to Koizumi on the issue of Iraq. Okamoto flew several times to the war-ravaged country after the 2003 Iraq War to map out Japan’s plan to help in reconstruction efforts.


Okamoto also served as a member of a third-party panel to review The Asahi Shimbun’s coverage of the issue of “comfort women,” a euphemism for women forced to provide sex to Japan’s wartime soldiers.

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