In the 1949 general election Ikeda won election to the Diet from Hiroshima Prefecture as a Democratic Liberal. He was a protégé of Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru. Ikeda served twice as finance minister (1949–1952, 1956–1957) and as minister for international trade and industry (1952, 1959–1960). During the Allied occupation of Japan (1945–1952), he was responsible for implementing the Dodge Plan, an economic stabilization program. In 1951 he was a member of the Japanese delegation to the San Francisco Peace Conference, and from 1956 he formed his own faction within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
In July 1960 Ikeda assumed the premiership, taking over from Kishi Nobusuke, who had split public opinion over revision of the United States–Japan Security Treaty. In contrast, Ikeda pursued a low-profile foreign policy, preferring to focus on domestic issues, above all the economy.
Aiming to turn Japan into an economic great power, Ikeda launched a plan to double Japan's gross national product within a decade. This enjoyed strong support from across the political spectrum. During his premiership, Japan joined the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and secured full membership in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Politically, Ikeda continued the policy of close cooperation with the United States. He saw Japan as constituting one of the so-called three pillars of the free world, alongside the United States and Western Europe. Ikeda also sought to improve relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC). Economic ties were strengthened, but diplomatic relations were not established.
Poor health forced Ikeda to resign in October 1964. He died in Tokyo on 13 August 1965.
Takemoto Tomoyuki and Christopher W. Braddick
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