De­fi­ant Abe a real dan­ger

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - ED­I­TO­RIAL

NO MAT­TER WHAT PRE­TEXTS JA­PANESE POLITI­cians em­ploy to jus­tify it, the Ya­sukuni Shrine in the heart of Tokyo is a highly sym­bolic re­minder of Ja­pan’s mil­i­tarist past, be­cause it en­shrines 14 con­victed Class-A war crim­i­nals such as Hideki Tojo and other war crim­i­nals among Ja­pan’s war dead.

Whether a Ja­panese prime min­is­ter vis­its the shrine is a tested-and-true po­lit­i­cal weather vane for judg­ing its po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tion, as well as proof that he re­spects or dis­re­gards the sen­si­tiv­i­ties of other coun­tries and the post­war in­ter­na­tional or­der.

On Thurs­day Shinzo Abe signed the en­try book to the shrine as Ja­pan’s prime min­is­ter, re­veal­ing the claims by his sub­or­di­nates, that he vis­ited it in a “pri­vate ca­pac­ity” and it was a mat­ter of “per­sonal be­lief”, to be poor dis­guises and out­right lies.

Re­sort­ing to their same old gang­ster logic in the dis­pute over the Diaoyu Is­lands, they want us to swal­low Abe’s of­fen­sive pil­grim­age to Ya­sukuni as a non-is­sue.

Re­spond­ing to the en­su­ing an­gry diplo­matic rip­ples, the unapolo­getic For­eign Min­is­ter Fu­mio Kishida high­lighted his gov­ern­ment’s “hope” to “avoid let­ting an af­fair as such de­velop into a po­lit­i­cal or diplo­matic is­sue”. This “hope” is sheer hypocrisy. Be­cause Abe knows full well “it is a re­al­ity that the visit to Ya­sukuni Shrine has be­come a po­lit­i­cal and diplo­matic is­sue”.

Con­trary to his claim that Abe had “no in­ten­tion at all of hurt­ing the feel­ings of Chi­nese or South Korean peo­ple”, Abe made the visit an­tic­i­pat­ing op­po­si­tion from both coun­tries, as Ja­panese New Komeito Party chief Nat­suo Ya­m­aguchi con­firmed.

Abe knew it would be an in­sult. But he does not care. What he wants to do is use the op­po­si­tion of neigh­bor­ing coun­tries to fuel do­mes­tic na­tion­al­ism and gar­ner more sup­port.

Abe’s shrine visit is a sig­nal that noth­ing at home is hold­ing him back from his ul­tra-right­ist po­lit­i­cal agenda to re­write Ja­pan’s paci­fist Con­sti­tu­tion and re­vive his war-cab­i­net grand­fa­ther’s dream of mak­ing Ja­pan a mil­i­tary power.

If Abe truly loves peace, he would not have sought to break Ja­pan’s tra­di­tion and let it ex­port weapons again. If he re­spects in­ter­na­tional law, he would not have claimed there is no clear def­i­ni­tion of “ag­gres­sion”. If he hon­ors hu­man­ity, he would not be try­ing to sweep un­der the car­pet the atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by the Ja­panese troops and in­stead show re­spect to their vic­tims, both the buried and the breath­ing.

Abe’s cal­cu­lated move, on the an­niver­sary of his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s tak­ing of­fice, is an in­tol­er­a­ble in­sult to the feel­ings of Chi­nese and Korean peo­ples among oth­ers and a bla­tant at­tack on hu­man de­cency, as well as a shame­ful chal­lenge to the in­ter­na­tional con­sen­sus on his­tory and jus­tice, to which our re­sponse should in no way stop at diplo­matic rep­re­sen­ta­tions.

Abe’s nasty track record — his de­nial of the ag­gres­sive na­ture of Ja­panese in­tru­sions dur­ing WWII, his lack of re­morse for Ja­pan’s his­tor­i­cal sins, and his crooked ap­proach to ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes — dis­qual­i­fies him from hav­ing an op­por­tu­nity to ex­plain, face to face, to Chi­nese and South Korean lead­ers his mo­tive and pur­pose. His trib­ute to Ya­sukuni has slammed the door to di­a­logue shut.

Given the Abe ad­min­is­tra­tion’s bank­rupt po­lit­i­cal cred­i­bil­ity and dan­ger­ous po­lit­i­cal ori­en­ta­tions, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity and China should not be fooled by his ex­cuses, in­stead it is time for them to se­ri­ously re­con­sider their re­la­tion­ship with Ja­pan, from per­spec­tives of se­cu­rity, diplo­macy and econ­omy.

A Ja­pan ob­sessed with its mil­i­tarist past is a real dan­ger to the Asia-Pa­cific.

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