Tanaka, Kakuei käko͞o´ā tänä´kä [key], 1918–93, Japanese political leader and prime minister (1972–74). Born to a poor rural family, he moved to Tokyo at the age of 15 and by 1937 had established his own construction firm. He prospered greatly during World War II and gained election to the lower house of the Diet, where he served from 1947. A member of Japan's dominant Liberal Democratic party , he was twice (1965–66, 1968–71) its secretary-general. Tanaka was also minister of finance (1962–65) and minister of international trade and industry (1971–72) before succeeding Eisaku Sato as prime minister. He was more colorful and somewhat more reformist than most of postwar Japan's other Liberal Democratic prime ministers. Shortly after his election he journeyed to the People's Republic of China, where he signed an agreement to establish diplomatic relations between Japan and the Beijing regime. Tanaka was forced to resign (1974) because of alleged financial malfeasance. He was later tried for accepting over $2 million in bribes from Lockheed Corp. and until his conviction in 1983 remained in control of the largest faction within the Liberal Democratic party. A stroke in 1985 limited his influence, but he nevertheless remained a powerful figure in Japanese politics until 1987, when Noboru Takeshita won control of the LDP faction Tanaka had led.
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