Anger over shrine visit

Se­ri­ous con­se­quences warned af­ter Abe pays war trib­ute

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By CAI HONG in Tokyo, ZHANG QING from Xin­hua in Seoul, ZHANG YUNBI in Bei­jing, and ZHANG YUWEI in New York

Shinzo Abe stunned the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity on Thurs­day by mak­ing him­self the first sit­ting Ja­panese prime min­is­ter in seven years to visit a shrine that hon­ors 14 World War II Class A war crim­i­nals among the coun­try’s war dead. The abrupt move — widely viewed as rewrit­ing pub­lic mem­ory on Ja­pan’s mil­i­taris­tic past — en­raged Ja­pan’s vic­tim­ized neigh­bors in­clud­ing China and South Korea and dis­ap­pointed Ja­pan’s tra­di­tional ally the United States.

Ob­servers said the hard-core na­tion­al­ist Abe is ru­in­ing the sta­bil­ity of North­east Asia and that he seems to be­lieve it is worth­while to sac­ri­fice hon­esty about his­tory in or­der to re­vi­tal­ize Ja­pan’s as­sertive style of ex­pan­sion be­fore World War II.

“Abe’s visit was fool­ish and does noth­ing but ex­ac­er­bate an al­ready sour re­la­tion­ship be­tween China and Ja­pan — as well as other Asian na­tions that suf­fered un­der Ja­pan dur­ing World War II,” said Jon Tay­lor, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of St. Thomas. Tay­lor called Abe’s ac­tion “ir­re­spon­si­ble ... po­lit­i­cally and morally tone deaf”.

Abe’s visit also drew crit­i­cism from the US, Ja­pan’s ally. A few hours af­ter Abe went to the shrine, the US Em­bassy in Ja­pan re­leased a writ­ten state­ment say­ing that “the United States is dis­ap­pointed that Ja­pan’s lead­er­ship has taken an ac­tion that will ex­ac­er­bate ten­sions with Ja­pan’s neigh­bors.” Wash­ing­ton hopes that Ja­pan and its neigh­bors will “find con­struc­tive ways” to deal with sen­si­tive is­sues from the past.

“It hurts the US-Ja­pan re­la­tion­ship and gives the White House an un­needed headache,” noted Tay­lor.

Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi sum­moned Ja­pan’s am­bas­sador to China Masato Kit­era to lodge a strong protest on Thurs­day. Bei­jing vowed zero tol­er­ance for Abe’s touch­ing the bot­tom of the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship, and for be­tray­ing the com­mit­ment of his gov­ern­ment and his pre­de­ces­sors, he said.

Ja­pan must bear “full re­spon­si­bil­ity for the se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal con­se­quences” of the visit, he said, adding Abe’s ac­tion has pushed Ja­pan in an “ex­tremely dan­ger­ous” di­rec­tion.

The shrine used to serve as a spir­i­tual tool and sym­bol of Ja­panese mil­i­taris­tic ag­gres­sion, and Abe’s pil­grim­age was “a fla­grant provocation against in­ter­na­tional jus­tice”, Wang added.

South Korean Cul­ture Min­is­ter Yoo Jin-ry­ong said in a state­ment that “our gov­ern­ment can­not re­press lamen­ta­tion and rage over Abe’s pay­ing of re­spects at the Ya­sukuni shrine, which glo­ri­fies its colo­nial ag­gres­sion and en­shrines war crim­i­nals”.

Ja­pan has strained its diplo­matic re­la­tion­ships with China, South Korea and Rus­sia in the past two years be­cause of dis­putes over is­lands and his­tor­i­cal is­sues, and the sit­u­a­tion has also been a headache for Wash­ing­ton.


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