PM un­der fire at home

Pro­fes­sors, politi­cians calls Shinzo Abe’s de­ci­sion ‘re­gret­table’ and ‘un­be­liev­able’

China Daily (Canada) - - WORLD - By LI XIAOKUN in Bei­jing and CAI HONG in Tokyo

Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Ya­sukuni Shrine on Thurs­day prompted Ja­pan’s own politi­cians, in­clud­ing one of Abe’s po­lit­i­cal al­lies, to ex­press their con­cerns about Ja­pan’s fu­ture path and its re­la­tions with Asian neigh­bors.

Crit­ics in­cluded Nat­suo Ya­m­aguchi, leader of the New Komeito Party, which is part of the rul­ing coali­tion led by Abe’s Lib­eral Demo­cratic Party. Ya­m­aguchi said his party had urged Abe to avoid vis­it­ing the shrine, which hon­ors Ja­panese lead­ers con­victed as war crim­i­nals af­ter World War II.

The visit “will make Ja­pan’s re­la­tions with China and South Korea tougher”, Ya­m­aguchi said. He said the move was “re­gret­table”.

Ya­m­aguchi said Abe will have to face the im­pact his visit had on Ja­pan’s for­eign re­la­tions alone. He added that the prime min­is­ter clearly un­der­stood the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of his visit.

Kat­sumasa Suzuki,

sec­re­tarygen­eral of Ja­pan’s Peo­ple’s Life Party, called Abe’s move “un­be­liev­able”.

So­cial Demo­cratic Party Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Mataichi Seiji said Abe ini­tially vowed to fol­low an ac­tive paci­fist road, but has in­stead en­gaged in ac­tive mil­i­tarism.

Take­hiko Ya­mamoto, a pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at Tokyo’s Waseda Univer­sity, told AFP the visit was “an act of folly” that will worsen a bad sit­u­a­tion.

“It is per­fectly pos­si­ble the visit will fuel wor­ries in Wash­ing­ton over a pos­si­ble rise of mil­i­tarism and a shift to the right in Ja­pan,” he said.

On Thurs­day, sev­eral Ja­panese po­lit­i­cal ex­perts told Reuters that Abe likely cal­cu­lated that his rel­a­tively high pub­lic ap­proval could weather the crit­i­cism over his Ya­sukuni Shrine visit. They said Abe’s move will also shore up sup­port in his con­ser­va­tive base.

With ties be­tween Bei­jing and Tokyo stag­nat­ing, Abe may also have felt the visit would not have made mat­ters worse, ac­cord­ing to Reuters. But the United States, a close Ja­panese ally that has made it clear it does not fa­vor Abe’s his­tor­i­cal re­vi­sion­ism, likely will not be pleased, the re­port said.

“He prob­a­bly thinks that since things are not work­ing well, the visit won’t cre­ate fur­ther dam­age. I think he’s wrong,” said Koichi Nakano, a pro­fes­sor at Sophia Univer­sity in Tokyo. “He prob­a­bly thinks that it’s OK, that’s he’s rel­a­tively pop­u­lar and it’s a mat­ter of con­vic­tion.” Sus­pi­cions about visit

Abe’s pub­lic ap­proval rat­ings slipped from around 60 per­cent to be­low 50 per­cent in re­cent polls af­ter his rul­ing bloc forced a law through par­lia­ment tight­en­ing penal­ties for leak­ing state se­crets. Crit­ics said the move smacked of Ja­pan’s war­time regime of se­crecy.

Ja­pan’s “Ar­ti­cle 9 As­so­ci­a­tion”, a group of schol­ars strug­gling to pro­tect Ar­ti­cle 9 of the Ja­panese Con­sti­tu­tion from be­ing re­vised by the Abe ad­min­is­tra­tion, also slammed the visit as “a be­trayal of Ja­pan na­tion­als”.

“The visit is an atroc­ity that can­not be for­given,” the group said.

Ar­ti­cle 9, seen as the core to the post­war Peace Con­sti­tu­tion, out­laws war as a means to set­tle in­ter­na­tional dis­putes in­volv­ing Ja­pan. It also stip­u­lates that armed forces will not be main­tained in Ja­pan to set­tle such dis­putes.

Yoshikatsu Ueda, 72, who is the sec­re­tary-gen­eral of an as­so­ci­a­tion of be­reaved fam­i­lies of Ja­pan’s war dead, said the visit was in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

“In­di­vid­u­als have the right to free­dom of re­li­gion and thought, but the prime min­is­ter of a coun­try with a con­sti­tu­tion that prom­ises last­ing peace based on re­flec­tions from war should not visit the shrine,” Ueda was quoted by Ja­panese news­pa­per Mainichi Shim­bun as say­ing.

“I can’t help but be sus­pi­cious that the prime min­is­ter’s visit to Ya­sukuni Shrine at this time ... is an in­di­ca­tion of his in­ten­tion to over­turn the gov­ern­ment’s con­sti­tu­tional in­ter­pre­ta­tion that bans the right to col­lec­tive self-de­fense,” Ueda said.

In the first year of his sec­ond term as prime min­is­ter, Abe has made con­tro­ver­sial re­marks and moves to deny or re­vise Ja­pan’s war crimes.

In an ad­dress in New York on Sept 26, Abe fur­ther dis­played his hawk­ish stance.

“So call me, if you want, a rightwing mil­i­tarist,” said Abe. Con­tact the writ­ers at lix­i­aokun@chi­nadaily.com.cn and cai­hong@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Xin­hua con­trib­uted to this story.

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