Abe rules out visit to Ya­sukuni shrine

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By ZHANG YUNBI zhangyunbi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe has de­cided not to visit the war-linked con­tro­ver­sial Ya­sukuni Shrine on Thurs­day, the 68th an­niver­sary of Ja­pan’s sur­ren­der in the World War II, lo­cal me­dia re­ported.

In­stead, Abe may make a rit­ual of­fer­ing to the shrine, and any of­fer­ing would be only as pres­i­dent of the Lib­eral Demo­cratic Party and not as prime min­is­ter, Ja­pan’s NHK Tele­vi­sion re­ported.

Pow­er­ful con­ser­va­tive groups ex­pect the Ja­panese leader to visit the shrine on the an­niver­sary. The shrine hon­ors 14 class-A war crim­i­nals.

But Abe wants to avoid pay­ing a heavy diplo­matic price by an­ger­ing Ja­pan’s neigh­bors who were vic­tim­ized by his coun­try in World War II, ob­servers said.

“The prime min­is­ter made the de­ci­sion not to visit the con­tro­ver­sial shrine af­ter con­sid­er­ing Ja­pan’s own national in­ter­ests in diplo­macy with China and South Korea,” said Zhang Boyu, deputy di­rec­tor of the depart­ment of Ja­panese po­lit­i­cal stud­ies at the Chi­nese Acad­emy of So­cial Sciences’ In­sti­tute of Ja­panese Stud­ies.

Bei­jing urges Tokyo to “honor its com­mit­ment” of ad­mit­ting and re­flect­ing on its his­tory of ag­gres­sion, For­eign Min­istry spokesman Hong Lei told China Daily on Wed­nes­day.

Ja­pan should “re­strain its re­marks and be­hav­ior with pre­cau­tion in rel­e­vant is­sues to win the trust of peo­ple from vic­tim­ized Asian coun­tries and the world”, Hong said.

Ja­pan’s Kyodo News Agency de­fines the shrine as “a sym­bol of Ja­panese past mil­i­tarism”. Vis­its to the shrine by Ja­panese of­fi­cials have sparked out­cries, most notably in China and South Korea, both of which suf­fered un­der a bru­tal Ja­panese wartime oc­cu­pa­tion.

Yet con­ser­va­tive groups, in­clud­ing the Nip­pon Izokukai, have long en­cour­aged govern­ment of­fi­cials to visit the shrine.

Ja­pan’s lead­ing me­dia have not at­trib­uted Wed­nes­day’s lat­est up­date of the prime min­is­ter’s de­ci­sion to any source, and nei­ther the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice nor the party’s head­quar­ters would con­firm the me­dia re­ports, Reuters said.

Be­fore Ja­pan’s lower house elec­tion in De­cem­ber, Abe ex­pressed “great re­gret” about not vis­it­ing the shrine dur­ing his first term as prime min­is­ter in 2006-07. Ja­panese me­dia la­beled such re­marks as ef­forts to win the hearts of rad­i­cal vot­ers.

But the con­ser­va­tive party leader has since changed his at­ti­tude about a shrine visit and voiced am­bi­gu­ity about it af­ter the party’s land­slide vic­tory in the up­per house elec­tion in late July.

On Aug 6, the prime min­is­ter pub­licly re­fused to an­swer a ques­tion about whether he will visit the shrine on the an­niver­sary of Ja­pan’s sur­ren­der.

“Not pay­ing trib­ute to the shrine does not nec­es­sar­ily mean Abe has given up his right-wing pur­suits. His pre­vi­ous re­marks about his not vis­it­ing the shrine re­flects the in­grained wish deep in his heart,” Zhang said.

The con­ser­va­tive rul­ing party now holds the ma­jor­ity in both the up­per and lower houses, a sit­u­a­tion that crit­ics say has given the Abe Cabi­net a big­ger say in form­ing diplo­matic poli­cies.

Zhou Yong­sheng, a Ja­panese stud­ies ex­pert at China For­eign Af­fairs Univer­sity, said Abe is now tweak­ing his poli­cies re­gard­ing China and South Korea “with less fear of the pres­sure be­ing ex­erted by the right-wing rad­i­cal vot­ers.

“But we should never con­sider such ma­neu­vers as a ma­jor change in poli­cies to­ward China. The hawk­ish prime min­is­ter will con­tinue show­ing tough­ness in is­sues in­volv­ing his coun­try’s in­ter­ests, such as ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes,” Zhou said.

The Ja­panese govern­ment made a uni­lat­eral, il­le­gal “pur­chase” of part of China’s Diaoyu Is­lands in the East China Sea in Septem­ber, lead­ing to de­te­ri­o­rat­ing ties with China.

As a prom­i­nent po­lit­i­cal fig­ure fa­mous for his con­ser­va­tive and prag­matic style, Abe is seek­ing to re­pair Ja­pan’s re­la­tion­ship with China and re­vive his na­tion’s econ­omy, Zhou said.

Mean­while three prom­i­nent Cabi­net mem­bers are likely to visit the sen­si­tive shrine on Thurs­day, lo­cal me­dia re­ported.

Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­form Min­is­ter To­momi Inada, In­ter­nal Af­fairs and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Yoshi­taka Shindo, and Keiji Furuya, chair­man of the National Pub­lic Safety Com­mis­sion, have signed up for ap­proval from the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice, Ja­pan’s Fuji Tele­vi­sion re­ported on Wed­nes­day.

KIM HONG-JI / REUTERS

Par­tic­i­pants carry por­traits of Korean women who were forced into sex­ual slav­ery by the Ja­panese mil­i­tary dur­ing World War II dur­ing a re­quiem cer­e­mony for for­mer com­fort woman Lee Yong-nyeo in cen­tral Seoul on Wed­nes­day.

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