Abe’s shrine visit un­wise, schol­ars say

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By CHINA DAILY

As the af­ter-effect of Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s con­tro­ver­sial visit to the Ya­sukuni Shrine rip­ples on, schol­ars from the United States, China and Ja­pan called the visit a reck­less move for Ja­pan.

“Abe’s visit to Ya­sukuni did not serve Ja­pan’s na­tional in­ter­est and it led all kinds of crit­i­cal com­men­taries in the press in the US, in Europe and else­where,” Ger­ald Cur­tis, Burgess pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal science at Columbia Univer­sity, said dur­ing a panel dis­cus­sion at Ja­pan So­ci­ety in Man­hat­tan on Wed­nes­day.

In the panel, ti­tled The USJa­pan-China Tri­an­gle: Build­ing a Path to Tri­lat­eral Co­op­er­a­tion, Cur­tis also em­pha­sized that the word­ing used by the US govern­ment’s state­ment re­gard­ing the shrine visit was very “tough” to use against its ally.

The US Em­bassy in Tokyo on Dec 26 stated that “the United States is dis­ap­pointed that Ja­pan’s lead­er­ship has taken an ac­tion that will ex­ac­er­bate ten­sions with Ja­pan’s neigh­bors.”

“Prime Min­is­ter Abe has said that Ya­sukuni is the same as a ceme­tery. It’s not the same as a ceme­tery. The point is that it is not po­lit­i­cally neu­tral,” said Cur­tis. “If the Prime Min­is­ter visits Ya­sukuni, it does con­vey that he was mak­ing a po­lit­i­cal mes­sage in sup­port of the Shrine’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of his­tory.”

A mon­u­ment in the Shrine is ded­i­cated to the In­dian Jus­tice Radha Binod Pal, the only judge at the Tokyo War Crimes Trial that voted to ac­quit all the de­fen­dants, Cur­tis said.

Yoshi­hide Soeya, a Ja­pan scholar at the Woodrow Wil­son In­ter­na­tional Cen­ter for Schol­ars and di­rec­tor at the In­sti­tute of East Asian Stud­ies, said that for years Ja­panese prime min­is­ters have been avoid­ing vis­it­ing the shrine to pre­vent po­ten­tial con­flicts.

“To me (Ja­panese prime min­is­ters) not vis­it­ing Ya­sukuni is the norm. In that sense, Abe is an ex­cep­tion,” Soeya said. “And I don’t be­lieve any prime min­is­ter af­ter Abe would do the same.”

Jia Qing­guo, pro­fes­sor and as­so­ciate dean of the School of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies of Pek­ing Univer­sity, said it is “un­der­stand­able” that as a na­tional leader Abe feels “it’s an obli­ga­tion to honor those who died” for his coun­try. “How­ever, Ya­sukuni Shrine is a place where war crim­i­nals are housed as well,” Jia said. “If he wishes to stand up against China, he has cho­sen the wrong is­sue.”

To al­le­vi­ate the cur­rent ten­sion be­tween China and Ja­pan, Alan Romberg, pan­elist and di­rec­tor of the East Asia pro­gram at the Wash­ing­ton­based Henry L. Stim­son Cen­ter, sug­gested that Abe make a clear stance on not vis­it­ing the shrine in fu­ture.

“It will be help­ful if Abe clearly sig­nals (that) he will not visit the Ya­sukuni Shrine again as a prime min­is­ter, and if he per­son­ally and di­rectly af­firms his ad­her­ence to the Mu­rayama and Kono state­ments re­gard­ing Ja­pan’s cul­pa­bil­ity to the past degra­da­tions,” Romberg said.

The pan­elists also dis­cussed the Diaoyu Is­lands dis­pute and called for both coun­tries to com­pro­mise.

“The for­mula for a deal is very clear. You have to put this is­sue back on the shelf,” said Cur­tis, say­ing the dis­pute can’t be re­solved in the short run.

“But first the Ja­panese have to rec­og­nize there is a dis­pute. There’s no ques­tion in my mind that it has to hap­pen. But there has to be a way of do­ing it without say­ing that ‘we rec­og­nize it that there is a dis­pute’,” Cur­tis said. Zhang Yang contributed to this story and can be reached at yangzhang@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

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