War criminals, war dead same: Abe

by Reiji Yoshida

The government should not look into the responsibility of the accused Class-A war criminals honored at Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine and instead count them among the nation’s 2.46 million war dead, Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said Wednesday.

Abe’s comments came after Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing compared Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s Yasukuni visits to German leaders going to memorials for Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

Abe told reporters that Koizumi visits the war-related shrine to “pay respect” to the people “who died for the country.”

Asked if those who died for the country included wartime Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo, Gen. Kenji Doihara, Gen. Seishiro Itagaki and Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka, who all died after the war, Abe said it was not appropriate to discuss that issue at the news conference.

The four all played key roles in leading aggression into China and are among the 14 convicted or accused Class A war criminals enshrined at Yasukuni in 1978.

Tojo, Doihara and Itagaki were convicted of war crimes by the 1946-48 International Military Tribunal for the Far East and were hanged. Matsuoka died of tuberculosis in 1946 in prison during his trial.

“If you mention the names (of the four), I’d like you to name each of the 2.4 million people,” Abe said. “More than 2.4 million people have been enshrined (at Yasukuni), and I think (Koizumi) went there and joined his hands” in prayer for all of them.

Abe has been a vocal supporter of Koizumi’s Yasukuni visits and has hinted he will keep going to the shrine now that he is the top government spokesman.

Koizumi has argued he has paid visits to “show respect” for people who made an “exalted sacrifice” for the country.

Abe again declined comment when asked if he thinks those who made an “exalted sacrifice” include the 14 who died after the war.

“I don’t think we should discuss each person who is enshrined,” he said.