TOKYO, July 1 (UPI) -- Former Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto died Saturday at 68.
Hashimoto, who gave up his political career last year because of failing health, had been hospitalized in critical condition for almost a month, the Mainichi Daily News reported.
The son of Ryugo Hashimoto, who served as health and welfare minister, Hashimoto entered politics in 1963 after his father's death. A member of the Liberal Democratic Party, he held a number of cabinet posts in the late 1970s and 1980s, including his father's old one.
As transport minister, Hashimoto was responsible for splitting the bankrupt state railway system into seven companies. As trade minister he confronted the United States on Japanese auto exports.
Hashimoto became prime minister in 1996 when Japan's economy was in free fall. He was ousted in 1998 when the LDP lost a bitter election.
Hashimoto was also active in building closer ties between Japan and China.
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