April 1, 2008 / 8:45 AM / 11 years ago

FACTBOX-Five facts about Japanese politician Taro Aso

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TOKYO, April 1 (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda is struggling to keep his job amid a political deadlock due to a divided parliament, and former Foreign Minister Taro Aso is widely seen as best placed to replace Fukuda if he falters.

Below are five facts about Aso.

* Aso, 67, served as foreign minister before taking the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s No. 2 post as secretary-general in a reshuffle in August 2007. He has also served as minister for economic planning and for posts and telecommunications.

* Aso came in second in the LDP leadership election against Fukuda last September to succeed Shinzo Abe, who had resigned abruptly. Aso makes no secret of still wanting the top job. His grandfather, then-Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, negotiated the peace treaty ending World War Two. Aso’s father-in-law was also a prime minister, and his sister is married to a cousin of Emperor Akihito.

* Aso wants to see Japan play a bigger global security role. In 2006, after becoming foreign minister, Aso said there was nothing wrong with discussing whether Japan, the only country to suffer an atomic bombing, should possess nuclear weapons. But he has also said that he would stay away from Yasukuni Shrine, seen by many in Asia as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.

* A rarity among Japan’s mostly staid politicians, Aso appeals to fellow fans of “manga” comics, and can work a crowd with amusing patter. He has authored two books, one of which — “Tremendous Japan”, about Japan’s “tremendous” potential — has become a best-seller.

* His brash manner has provoked controversy. Aso was forced to apologise over a flippant remark about Alzheimer’s disease last year and he stirred anger in the two Koreas in 2003 for remarks seen as praising Japan’s 1919-1945 colonisation of the peninsula. He criticised U.S. policy in Iraq in 2007 and said Japanese with their “yellow faces” would be more successful at Middle East diplomacy than “blond, blue-eyed Westerners” since Japan had never exploited the region.

Sources: Reuters (Reporting by Yoko Kubota)

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