Sunao Sonoda

Sunao Sonoda (園田 直, Sonoda Sunao, 11 December 1913 2 April 1984) was a leading Japanese Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) politician who served as foreign minister and health and welfare minister of Japan. He was called "flying foreign minister" due to his active diplomacy in increasing the role of Japan when he was in office.[1] He was one of the significant figures in normalizing the relations between Japan and China.[2]

Sunao Sonoda
園田 直
Sonoda at Schiphol in July 1979
Minister for Foreign Affairs
In office
18 May 1981  30 November 1981
Prime MinisterZenkō Suzuki
Preceded byMasayoshi Ito
Succeeded byYoshio Sakurauchi
Minister of Health and Welfare
In office
19 September 1980  18 May 1981
Prime MinisterZenkō Suzuki
Preceded byKunikichi Saitō
Succeeded byTatsuo Murayama
Minister for Foreign Affairs
In office
28 November 1977  9 November 1979
Prime MinisterTakeo Fukuda
Masayoshi Ohira
Preceded byIichirō Hatoyama
Succeeded bySaburo Okita
Chief Cabinet Secretary
In office
24 December 1976  28 November 1977
Prime MinisterTakeo Fukuda
Preceded byIchitaro Ide
Succeeded byShintaro Abe
Minister of Health and Welfare
In office
25 November 1967  30 November 1968
Prime MinisterEisaku Satō
Preceded byHideo Bō
Succeeded byNoboru Saitō
Personal details
Born11 December 1913
Kumamoto prefecture
Died2 April 1984(1984-04-02) (aged 70)
Political partyLiberal Democratic Party
Military career
Allegiance Japan
Service/branch Imperial Japanese Army
Years of service1935-1945
Battles/warsSecond Sino-Japanese War
Second World War

Early life

Sonoda was born in Kumamoto prefecture on 11 December 1913.[3]


Sonoda joined the Japanese army in 1938, and served both in China and in the Pacific area during World War II.[3] More specifically, he was commander of a kamikaze squad during the war.[1] In 1947, Sonoda was elected to the House of Representatives, the lower house of the Diet,[3] being a member of lower house for Kumamoto Prefecture.[4] He was originally a member of the Democratic Party. Then he became a member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) when the Democratic Party joined the Liberals.[3]

In the 1950s, he was special envoy of the LDP.[5] He served as parliamentary vice-foreign minister in 1955, and actively involved in normalizing the relations between Japan and the USSR.[3] However, in 1960, he resigned from the LDP due to his objections to the ratification of the US-Japan mutual security treaty.[3]

After rejoining the LDP, Sonoda also served as vice speaker of the lower house for two terms:[6] from 20 December 1965 to 27 December 1966 and from 15 February 1967 to 25 November 1967.[7] He served as minister of health and welfare from 1967 to 1968,[2] which he held again from 1980 to 1981.[3]

In addition, Sonoda was chief cabinet secretary in the cabinet led by Takeo Fukuda from 24 December 1976 to 28 November 1977.[8][9]

Within the LDP Sonoda was against the Nakasone faction and formed his own.[10] He and the members of his faction joined the faction headed by Fukuda in 1972.[10][11] However, he later left it and joined the faction headed by Masayoshi Ōhira.[12]

Minister of foreign affairs

Sonoda served as minister of foreign affairs three times: in the cabinet of prime minister Takeo Fukuda from November 1977 to December 1978, in the cabinet of prime minister Masayoshi Ohira from December 1978 to November 1979, and in the cabinet of prime minister Zenko Suzuki from 17 May to 30 November 1981.[13]

During his first term in the ministry of foreign affairs, Japan signed the treaty of peace and friendship with China.[14] This treaty formed the basis of the relationships between two countries.[1] Sonoda represented his country at the signature of this treaty in Beijing in 1978.[2] Sonoda was secondly appointed foreign minister to the cabinet of Masayoshi Ohira who kept this and other three ministries for his own faction.[12] When in office for the second time, Sonoda visited five African countries in July 1979, including Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, Ivory Coast and Senegal.[15] He also traveled South America in August 1979.

On 17 May 1981, Sonoda was appointed by then prime minister and his close friend Zenko Suzuki as foreign minister for the last time due to unexpected resignation of the former foreign minister Masayoshi Ito.[16][17] Sonoda called for adopting the omnidirectional diplomacy and unlike his two predecessors, issued entry visas to Soviet economic delegations.[17] Sonoda was replaced by Yoshio Sakurauchi who was appointed foreign minister by prime minister Zenko Suzuki on 30 November 1981.[18] The reason for Sonoda's removal from his post was his blunt remarks concerning U.S. policies in June 1981 as well as his other statements detrimental to Japan's relations with South Korea.[19]

Personal life

Sunao Sonoda married twice. His son from the first marriage, Hiroyuki Sonoda, ran for his father seat in Kumamoto Prefecture in the general elections of 1986.[4] Sonoda'a second wife, Tenkoko Sonoda, also tried to take over her husband's seat in the same election following his death.[4] Tenkoko Sonoda was a member of the Diet during her marriage to Sunao.[20] They married after World War II[21] and had two children.[20]


Sonoda died of kidney failure at Keio University hospital in Tokyo on 2 April 1984.[13]


Foreign honour


  1. "Former Japanese minister Sonoda". The Montreal Gazette. 3 April 1984. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  2. Louis Frédéric; Käthe Roth (2002). Japan Encyclopedia. Harvard University Press. p. 902. ISBN 978-0-674-01753-5. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  3. "Sonoda, Sunao". Rulers. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
  4. Jameson, Sam (4 July 1986). "Family Connections Growing in Importance in Japanese Politics". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  5. Kramer, Eugene (4 September 1956). "Japanese diplomat paced famed duch 11 years ago". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Tokyo. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  6. Kanako Tahara (25 May 2002). "Secret funds have oiled wheels for decades". The Japan Times. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  7. "The National Diet of Japan" (PDF). Secretariat of the House of Representatives. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 October 2013. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
  8. Iwao Hoshii (1993). Japan's Pseudo-Democracy. Japan Library. p. 110. ISBN 978-1-873410-07-3. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  9. Janet Hunter (1984). Concise Dictionary of Modern Japanese History. University of California Press. p. 322. ISBN 978-0-520-04557-6. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  10. Junnosuke Masumi (1995). Contemporary Politics in Japan. University of California Press. p. 214. ISBN 978-0-520-05854-5. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  11. Slee, John (8 December 1978). "New Japanese PM takes over". The Sydney Morning Herald. Tokyo. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  12. Donald W. Klein (January 1979). "Japan 1978: The Consensus Continues". Asian Survey. 19 (1): 30–40. doi:10.1525/as.1979.19.1.01p0004i. JSTOR 2643652.
  13. "Ex-Japanese Foreign Minister Sunao Sonoda". Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal. 2 April 1984. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  14. "Sunao Sonoda, foreign minister". The Evening Independent. Tokyo. AP. 2 April 1984. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  15. Jun Morikawa (1997). Japan and Africa: Big Business and Diplomacy. Hurst. p. 83. ISBN 978-1-85065-141-3. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  16. Stokes, Henry Scott (17 May 1981). "Japan replaces foreign minister in rift over U.S." The New York Times. p. 1.
  17. Hiroshi Kimura (2000). Distant Neighbours: Japanese-Russian relations under Brezhnev and Andropov. M.E. Sharpe. p. 228. ISBN 978-0-7656-0585-6. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  18. "Japan's cabinet shuffled". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Tokyo. UPI. 30 November 1981. Retrieved 1 January 2013.
  19. Murray, Geoffrey (1 December 1981). "Japanese Cabinet shaken up to tackle big problems". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  20. Wijers-Hasegawa, Yumi (18 August 2006). "Pioneer for women seeks home for peace dolls". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  21. Daimon, Sayuri (20 December 2007). "A long life of peace that sprung from war". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
House of Representatives of Japan
Preceded by
Kinji Moriyama
Chair, Social and Labour Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives of Japan
Succeeded by
Tadanori Nagayama
Preceded by
Isaji Tanaka
Vice-Speaker of the House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Hisao Kodaira
Party political offices
Preceded by
Yūtarō Takeyama
Chairman of the Diet Policy Committee, Liberal Democratic Party
Succeeded by
Hideyo Sasaki
Preceded by
Shirō Hasegawa
Chairman of the Diet Policy Committee, Liberal Democratic Party
Succeeded by
Toshio Tsukahara
Political offices
Preceded by
Hideo Bō
Minister of Health and Welfare
Succeeded by
Noboru Saitō
Preceded by
Ichitaro Ide
Chief Cabinet Secretary
Succeeded by
Shintaro Abe
Preceded by
Iichirō Hatoyama
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Saburo Okita
Preceded by
Kunikichi Saitō
Minister of Health and Welfare
Succeeded by
Tatsuo Murayama
Preceded by
Masayoshi Ito
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Yoshio Sakurauchi
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