Anger over shrine visit

Se­ri­ous con­se­quences warned af­ter Abe pays war trib­ute

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By CAI HONG in Tokyo, ZHANG QING from Xin­hua in Seoul and ZHANG YUNBI in Bei­jing

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.

For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi sum­moned Ja­panese Am­bas­sador to China Masato Kit­era to lodge a strong protest on Thurs­day. Bei­jing vowed ze­ro­tol­er­ance 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 is “a fla­grant provocation against in­ter­na­tional jus­tice”, Wang said.

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”.

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 “fi nd con­struc­tive ways” to deal with sen­si­tive is­sues from the past, the state­ment said.

Yang Bo­jiang, deputy di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute of Ja­pan Stud­ies at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences, said Abe’s visit will deal a heavy blow to Ja­pan’s in­ter­na­tional im­age and fur­ther iso­late the coun­try.

“Abe is risk­ing sup­port from within both Ja­pan and the United States, and his po­lit­i­cal life will come to an ear­lier end,” Yang warned.

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.

James Fal­lows, a na­tional cor­re­spon­dent for The At­lantic Monthly, said, “there is al­most noth­ing a Ja­panese prime min­is­ter could have done that would have in­flamed tem­pers more along the Ja­panChina-South Korea-US axis than to make this visit”.

“Amer­i­cans who visit the ‘his­tor­i­cal’ mu­seum at the shrine (as I have done) will note its por­trayal of Ja­pan be­ing “forced” into World War II by US eco­nomic and mil­i­tary en­cir­clement,” Fal­lows wrote in his lat­est online ar­ti­cle.

Abe is de­lib­er­ately stir­ring up the sit­u­a­tion to “make sure the ten­sion does not fade away”, said Feng Wei, a pro­fes­sor of Ja­panese stud­ies at Fu­dan Univer­sity in Shang­hai.

“Be­cause there will be no more ex­cuses for his plan of re­vis­ing Ja­pan’s paci­fist Con­sti­tu­tion if there is no ten­sion in Ja­pan’s neigh­bor­hood,” Feng said.

The visit was made as Abe’s pub­lic sup­port this month dropped to a record low since he re­took of­fice last De­cem­ber.

Ak­i­hiro Non­aka, a pro­fes­sor at the School of Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence at Waseda Univer­sity in Tokyo, said “the en­shrin­ing of the Class A crim­i­nals is un­con­sti­tu­tional, ac­cord­ing to Ja­pan’s Supreme Court”.

“He does not show re­spect for the count­less Asian peo­ple who died in the war,” Non­aka added.

Zhou Yong­sheng, a pro­fes­sor of Ja­panese stud­ies at China For­eign Af­fairs Univer­sity, said what is be­hind Abe’s pil­grim­age is the ac­cel­er­at­ing pace of the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment in seek­ing a rightwing style of gov­ern­ing, which is “bring­ing a huge threat to re­gional peace”.

“As Abe is bent on elim­i­nat­ing all leg­isla­tive re­stric­tions against Ja­panese armed forces wag­ing a war, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity will be un­able to rein in Ja­pan from tak­ing such a dan­ger­ous step,” Zhou warned.


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