(AFP) – Nov 22, 2007
HANOI (AFP) — An outspoken former Japanese government minister has been found dead in a Vietnamese hotel room, but the cause of death was not yet known, Vietnamese officials and Japanese diplomats said Thursday.
Former construction minister Takami Eto, 82, a conservative who in the past angered other Asian countries with his views on wartime history, was found dead in his hotel room in southern Ho Chi Minh City.
"We know Mr Takami Eto has passed away in Ho Chi Minh City," said a Japanese diplomat in Hanoi who asked not to be named. "He was found dead in his hotel room, but we don't yet know the cause of death."
Police in the communist country were investigating the death but declined to comment to AFP. The state-run Foreign Press Centre in the city confirmed the death but gave no further details including when the body was found.
Japan's Kyodo News said Eto died of an apparent heart attack, and that he was in Vietnam on a private trip to inspect livestock and other agriculture.
Eto served as construction minister and was once a powerbroker in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. He was best known for his hawkish remarks, which once caused a diplomatic row with South Korea.
In 1995, Eto resigned as head of the Management and Coordination Agency, a then body handling domestic affairs, after saying that Japan "did some good things" when it ruled Korea, such as building roads, railroads and schools.
He quit after his remarks threatened to cancel a summit between South Korea's then president Kim Young-Sam and Japan's prime minister Tomiichi Murayama, a socialist who governed through a coalition.
Eto also defended the 1910 Annexation Treaty which gave Japan control of the Korean Peninsula.
"Why was the country-to-country treaty called an invasion?" Eto had said in a speech. "What's the difference between that and a merger of a town and a village?"
Eto also campaigned against textbooks mentioning "comfort women" -- women whom Japanese troops forced into sexual slavery during World War II.
Eto retired from politics in 2003. His son, Taku Eto, took his seat in parliament.
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