Shrine visit fury mounts

World pow­ers and Asian neigh­bors united in their con­dem­na­tion of Abe

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By PU ZHENDONG in Bei­jing, CAI HONG in Tokyo and ZHANG YUWEI in Wash­ing­ton

Out­rage from Asian neigh­bors and world pow­ers con­tin­ued to grow on Fri­day over Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s visit to a con­tro­ver­sial shrine.

Ob­servers de­scribed the visit to Tokyo’s Ya­sukuni Shrine, made on Thurs­day, as a dan­ger­ous at­tempt to re­de­fine Ja­pan’s mil­i­taris­tic war­time his­tory.

The shrine hon­ors 14 of Ja­pan’s World War II Class A war crim­i­nals among the coun­try’s war dead.

Abe’s de­ci­sion prompted the United States to re­con­sider its level of sup­port for its Asian ally, while Rus­sia and the Euro­pean Union also voiced con­cerns.

Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry spokes­woman Hua Chun­y­ing re­it­er­ated Bei­jing’s in­dig­na­tion, at­tack­ing Ja­pan’s jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the visit as “fee­ble and fu­tile” and urg­ing it to take re­spon­si­bil­ity in main­tain­ing re­gional sta­bil­ity.

“What we have seen in the past year from Abe’s words and con­duct is only hypocrisy, ar­ro­gance and self-con­tra­dic­tion, as he tried to deny World War II ag­gres­sion, a mil­i­tary build-up and a chal­lenge to the post-war world or­der,” Hua said.

“It is ob­vi­ous that Abe’s ret­ro­grade ac­tions have in­duced con­dem­na­tion from Chi­nese peo­ple, for which Ja­pan should bear all the con­se­quences,” she said.

“It’s Tokyo’s choice — whether to re­flect on his­tory thor­oughly and de­velop fu­ture­ori­ented ties with neigh­bors, or cling to its wrong and dan­ger­ous course, be­ing iso­lated by the world.”

The for­eign af­fairs com­mit­tee of the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress also is­sued a state­ment on Fri­day con­demn­ing Abe’s visit to the shrine.

China and South Korea, both vic­tims of Ja­pan’s past atroc­i­ties, voiced their anger over the shrine visit on Thurs­day. Bei­jing sum­moned Tokyo’s am­bas­sador to de­liver a “strong rep­ri­mand”, while Seoul ex­pressed its anger and urged Tokyo to stop “beau­ti­fy­ing its invasion”.

An­a­lysts, de­scrib­ing Abe as “po­lit­i­cally and morally tone deaf” and his ac­tions as “ir­re­spon­si­ble”, said his visit was fool­ish and did noth­ing but ex­ac­er­bate an al­ready sour re­la­tion­ship with other Asian na­tions that suf­fered un­der Ja­pan dur­ing World War II.

Jeff Kingston, di­rec­tor of Asian stud­ies at Ja­pan’s Tem­ple Univer­sity, said Ja­pan has turned its his­tory into an is­sue when it should be seek­ing the co­op­er­a­tion of China and South Korea.

“Tram­pling on neigh­bors’ sen­si­tiv­i­ties about their shared past also lim­its room for man­ag­ing ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes in­volv­ing both coun­tries, or mak­ing head­way on a range of other press­ing is­sues,” CNN quoted Kingston as say­ing.

What we have seen in the past year from Abe’s words and con­duct is only hypocrisy, ar­ro­gance and self-con­tra­dic­tion, as he tried to deny World War II ag­gres­sion, a mil­i­tary build-up and a chal­lenge to the post-war world or­der.”


Lyu Yaodong, di­rec­tor of the Ja­panese diplo­macy depart­ment at the In­sti­tute of Ja­pan Stud­ies un­der the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences, said the real in­ten­tion of Abe’s shrine visit was to pub­li­cize the Ja­panese leader’s view of the coun­try’s his­tory.

“The visit has made it more dif­fi­cult for Tokyo to mend its sab­o­taged ties with Bei­jing and Seoul. It also goes against Ja­pan’s am­bi­tion to be a world power,” Lyu said.

In a rare crit­i­cal tone, Wash­ing­ton on Thurs­day also crit­i­cized Tokyo for ex­ac­er­bat­ing ten­sions.

Liu Jiangy­ong, an ex­pert in Ja­panese stud­ies at Ts­inghua Univer­sity, said: “The swift re­sponse from Wash­ing­ton shows that Abe has tres­passed on the bot­tom line of the US’ con­cep­tion of his­tory and war. On his­toric is­sues, Wash­ing­ton and Tokyo con­tra­dict each other.”

Jon Tay­lor, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of St Thomas in the US, said the visit hurts the US-Ja­pan re­la­tion­ship and gives the White House an un­needed headache.

“There is a con­cern that Abe may be us­ing this as a way to de­flect prob­lems in the econ­omy by push­ing Ja­panese na­tion­al­ism, which is never a good thing,” Tay­lor said.

We­ston Kon­ishi, an ex­pert on Asia, said the US wants to show strong sup­port for Ja­pan as Tokyo strug­gles with ter­ri­to­rial is­sues with its neigh­bors.

“But at the same time, the US is very con­cerned about prime min­is­ter Abe’s views to­ward his­tory, and how that might ex­ac­er­bate ten­sions,” Kon­ishi was quoted by AFP as say­ing. “It cer­tainly com­pli­cates what the US is try­ing to do in Asia.”

On Thurs­day, Rus­sian For­eign Min­istry spokesman Alexan­der Luka­she­vich ex­pressed re­gret over Abe’s visit.

He said that some forces in Ja­pan have a dif­fer­ent eval­u­a­tion of the out­come of World War II com­pared with the un­der­stand­ing shared by the world.

Cather­ine Ash­ton, Euro­pean Union for­eign pol­icy chief, said in a state­ment that Abe’s de­ci­sion is not con­ducive to eas­ing ten­sions in the re­gion or im­prov­ing re­la­tions with neigh­bors, es­pe­cially China and South Korea.

Gao Hong, deputy di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute of Ja­panese Stud­ies at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences, said the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity is se­ri­ously con­cerned about Abe’s visit be­cause it chal­lenges the hu­man con­science and the post-war world or­der.

Con­cil­ia­tory tone

Ac­knowl­edg­ing that the visit has be­come a po­lit­i­cal and diplo­matic is­sue, Abe struck a con­cil­ia­tory tone soon af­ter­wards.

“It is not my in­ten­tion at all to hurt the feel­ings of the Chi­nese and Korean peo­ple,” he said. “I have re­newed my de­ter­mi­na­tion be­fore the souls of the war dead to firmly up­hold the pledge never to wage a war again.”

Abe did not visit the Ya­sukuni Shrine dur­ing his pre­vi­ous ten­ure as prime min­is­ter in 2006. In Oc­to­ber, sev­eral Ja­panese cab­i­net of­fi­cials and more than 150 leg­is­la­tors vis­ited the shrine. Abe re­frained from vis­it­ing in per­son then, but sent an of­fer­ing.


Pro­test­ers shout slo­gans against Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe out­side the Ja­panese em­bassy in Seoul on Fri­day. Abe paid his re­spects on Thurs­day at the con­tro­ver­sial Ya­sukuni Shrine in a move that drew sharp re­bukes from China and South Korea, who warned that the visit cel­e­brates Ja­pan’s mil­i­taris­tic past.

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