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Kenji Miyamoto, 98; led the Communist Party in Japan for many years

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Kenji Miyamoto, 98, longtime leader of the Japanese Communist Party, died Wednesday at a Tokyo hospital, 10 years after resigning as party head, officials told Agence France-Presse.

He was named secretary-general of the party in 1958, became party chairman in 1970 and chairman of the central committee in 1982.

At its height, after elections in 1979, the Japanese Communist Party held more than 8% of the seats in the lower house of parliament. That margin has since fallen to 2%.

Miyamoto guided Japan’s communists independent of Soviet and Chinese influence, denouncing Soviet invasions of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan and Chinese nuclear tests. He also opposed the continued presence of the United States in Japan in the decades after World War II.

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Rather than promoting violent revolution, Miyamoto advocated changing society by addressing such issues as housing, education and the economy.

Born in 1908 and a communist since the 1930s, Miyamoto was imprisoned during World War II for his part in the death of a fellow party member who was suspected of spying. Miyamoto proclaimed his innocence and, after his release in 1945, became active in politics.

He retired in 1997, three years after suffering a stroke.


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