TOKYO -- Former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, a World War II leader who was jailed by American occupation forces but later sealed Japan's post-war alliance with the United States, died today in a Tokyo hospital after a long illness. He was 90.
Kishi, hospitalized last December after a bout with pneumonia, died of heart complications at Tokyo Medical Hospital after lapsing into grave condition earlier in the day, his doctors said. He suffered from diabetes and liver trouble, they said.
Funeral services were scheduled for Tuesday. Kishi is survived by a son, Nobukazu, and a daughter, Yoko.
One of the most durable conservative leaders in Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Kishi was prime minister from 1957 to 1960 and spearheaded the signing of the controversial 1960 Japan-U.S. security treaty that has formed the basis of the two nations' friendly relations since.
The treaty, however, drew fierce domestic opposition and incited riots in Tokyo by leftist and anti-military protesters angered at the prospect of a defense alliance. The violence forced Kishi to resign in July 1960.
Although he never held another Cabinet post, he continued to represent a southwest Japan district in Parliament until retiring in 1979 and remained influential, serving on a panel of senior advisers to the ruling party.
Despite his role as a strong advocate of Japanese-American cooperation after World War II, Kishi was also influential in the pre-1945 Japan that fought America. He led Japan's economic mobilization as a member of the wartime Cabinet.
Kishi was jailed for three years by the Americans who occupied Japan from 1945 to 1952 but was never brought to trial as a war criminal.
His release in 1948 was engineered by John Foster Dulles, who later became American secretary of state. Dulles respected Kishi's political abilities and his strong anti-communist sentiments, which colored his entire career.
Kishi was a member of one of Japan's foremost political families. A brother, Eisaku Sato, was prime minister from 1964 to 1972. Kishi's last name originally was Sato, but like many Japanese, he was legally adopted by his wife's family after marriage and took their name of Kishi.
Kishi's daughter, Yoko, is married to former Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe, currently an LDP leader and among three top candidates to succeed Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone this fall.
Kishi was born Nov. 13, 1896, one of three sons of a small town manufacturer of sake in rural Yamaguchi province at the southern tip of Japan's main island of Honshu. The province has spawned a record number of seven Japanese prime ministers.
His was a family of exceptional children. Along with Sato, another of Kishi's brothers became an admiral in the Japanese navy.
A graduate of Tokyo University, Kishi started his career as a civil servant in the commerce ministry. When the Japanese military conquered Manchuria in the 1930s, he was placed in charge of industrial development in the Manchurian state created by Japan.
In the late 1930s, he was instrumental in a plan to bring tens of thousands of Koreans from their Japanese-ruled homeland to Japan as laborers.
In October 1941 he became industry and commerce minister under Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, who plunged Japan into war with America as a result of the Pearl Harbor bombing a few weeks later.
Until April 1943 Kishi was the economic czar of wartime Japan. He was demoted in 1943 but stayed in the Cabinet until the summer of 1944, a year before Japan's surrender.
After his release from jail in 1948, he returned to politics and became prime minister in 1957.
Behind his trademark toothy smile was the computer-like mind of one of Japan's most brilliant financiers and politicians. But like the late American President Herbert Hoover, Kishi had a fatal political flaw -- he could not communicate his ideas well to ordinary people.
Although he got Washington to renegotiate an unpopular defense treaty Japan and America had signed in 1952, and won many concessions in Japan's favor, the whole idea of alliance with the United States was opposed by his country's substantial left-wing minority, repelled by wartime militarism.
After Kishi got the treaty ratified by the Japanese Parliament in 1960, left-wing demonstrators stormed into the streets of Tokyo and paralyzed the Japanese capital for weeks. To restore order, LDP leaders sacrificed Kishi, forcing him to resign July 5, 1960.
Kishi was also active in business and was an officer or director of many Japanese companies. After being forced out as prime minister, he played a key role as go-between for Japanese businessmen investing in Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and other Asian countries.
Kishi was a ardent foe of communism throughout his life. In the 1960s and early 1970s, he was an active promoter of the Asian Pacific Anti-Communist League.
He also sought revision of Japan's 1948 'no-war' constitution, urging that Japan should be given a free hand to rearm. To the end, he remained a firm advocate of cooperation between Japan and the anti-communist governments of Taiwan and South Korea.
He was a good friend of former President Nixon, who often sought Kishi's views on Japanese and Asian questions.