Former Japanese prime minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, a World War Two naval officer and one of Japanâ€™s longest-serving premiers, marked his 100th birthday on Sunday with a call to revise the nationâ€™s post-war, pacifist constitution.
Nakasone, who trod the world stage with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher during his 1982-1987 tenure, has long advocated amending the US-drafted charter to clarify the ambiguous status of the military – a goal shared by incumbent premier Shinzo Abe.
He urged politicians to seriously tackle the matter, which remains a contentious topic among the Japanese public.
â€œTo resolutely open the path to the nationâ€™s future … is the essence of politics,â€ Nakasone said in a statement issued to mark his birthday that was carried by Japanese media.
Known for his â€œRon and Yasuâ€ friendship with Reagan, Nakasone made headlines after taking office when he said that, in the event of a war, he would make Japan an unsinkable â€œaircraft carrierâ€ for US forces and bottle up the Soviet navy.
Nakasone also broke an unwritten rule on limiting the annual defense budget to 1 percent of gross national product.
A former lieutenant in the Imperial Navy who lost his younger brother in World War Two, Nakasone outraged Asian countries when he made an official visit to Tokyoâ€™s Yasukuni shrine, where convicted war criminals are honored along with Japanâ€™s war dead, on the 40th anniversary of Japanâ€™s surrender.
He decided not to repeat the pilgrimage after it sparked riots in China.
Nakasone was forced to retire in 2003 when he was 85, along with other elder statesmen, by then-premier Junichiro Koizumi, who was keen to rejuvenate the Liberal Democratic Partyâ€™s image as a party of staid, elderly politicians.
Commenting on the reasons for his longevity, Nakasone cited a disciplined life, interest in nature – and an insatiably inquiring mind. (Reuters)