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Abe’s visit to Yasukuni to further incite hard-liners in China, South Korea


Staff Writer

When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel came to Tokyo in October, the pair paid an unexpected visit to a place considered neutral political ground in Chiyoda Ward.

No doubt the two were sending an indirect but unquestionably clear message to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by laying flowers at the Chidorigafuchi cemetery: don’t go to Yasukuni Shrine and stir up war-related anger in East Asia.

Chidorigafuchi is dedicated to the remains of unidentified Japanese who died overseas in the war.

Many political leaders have visited the cemetery over the years to express their condolences for war victims without drawing political flak.

Abe often defended politicians’ visits to Yasukuni Shrine by likening them with U.S. leaders’ visits to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Kerry and Hagel apparently signalled, however, that if Abe wanted to pay homage to Japan’s war dead, he should go to Chidorigafuchi, not Yasukuni.

America believes it is vital that Japan, China and South Korea enjoy stable relations at a time when Washington must address various political and economic challenges in Asia.

But on Thursday Abe went ahead and visited Yasukuni. The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo immediately posted an unusually blunt statement indirectly criticizing his move.

“Japan is a valued ally and friend. Nevertheless, the United States is disappointed that Japan’s leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan’s neighbors,” the statement read.

“The United States hopes that both Japan and its neighbors will find constructive ways to deal with sensitive issues from the past, to improve their relations, and to promote cooperation in advancing our shared goals of regional peace and stability,” it read.

According to Kyodo News, the U.S. first considered expressing “regret” or “concern” in the statement, but the stronger language was chosen through prior consultation between the White House and the State Department.

Earlier this month, Vice President Joe Biden visited Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul to urge leaders to improve relations. Washington reportedly called on Abe not to go to Yasukuni.

Abe has centered his diplomacy on Japan’s close ties with the United States, particularly when it comes to China’s growing military and economic presence.

Since his inauguration last December, he had maintained a relatively low profile toward China and South Korea over matters of wartime history. He avoided revising official apologies regarding Japan’s aggression in other parts of Asia, despite earlier posturing suggesting otherwise.

A high-ranking official close to Abe earlier noted that because Japan crucially needs U.S. assistance in dealing with a number of diplomatic issues, efforts were made to soften his administration’s stance on sensitive historical issues.

“In my case, it all comes from consideration of (relations) with the U.S.,” the official said.

But this time, the official apparently failed to persuade Abe to give Yasukuni Shrine a miss.

Experts speculated that Abe opted to visit the shrine Thursday because he reckoned Japan’s relations with China and South Korea couldn’t get any worse.

Abe has repeatedly said his door is open if Seoul or Beijing want to have a summit, but no such meeting has happened since he took office and instead relations have deteriorated.

Abe didn’t visit Yasukuni on Aug. 15, the anniversary day of Japan’s World War II surrender, and apparently explored ways to arrange a summit in the fall. But China, with which Japan is recently and routinely confronting over its military forays around the Senkaku Islands, and South Korea, which holds islets that Japan claims, were not interested in meeting.

Abe meanwhile had appeared mindful of the risks of enraging Beijing and Seoul and disappointing Washington at the same time.

He immediately issued a written statement and an English-translated version Thursday regarding his Yasukuni visit.

Abe repeatedly emphasized his visit was not designed to “pay homage to war criminals,” and reiterated that Japan should never wage war again.

“It is not my intention at all to hurt the feelings of the Chinese and Korean people,” he said.

But Bonji Ohara, a China expert and research fellow at the Tokyo Foundation, said Abe’s visit to Yasukuni will only give hard-line Chinese leaders ammunition to take an even tougher stance against Japan.

China’s leaders will find it even more difficult to resist such pressure, he said.

  • Dean

    If this is not paying “pay homage to war criminals,” I don’t know what is. He he standing in front of the war lords and paying his respect.

  • Marcus Vicis

    When will Japan learn that it was the aggressor in WW II and that indeed it owes its neighbors an apology for the atrocities that its military men inflicted to the countries Japan invaded? And will Japan learn that some the the military men buried at the Yasukuni shrine are war criminals?

    How would Germany look if Angela Merkel would visit a Nazi cemetery?

  • pervertt

    Dog does not like being wagged. Tail, behave.

  • The Truth

    Two wrongs don’t make one right.

  • AussieLouis

    Your excuses for the barbaric atrocities of the Japanese military in WW2 is a disgrace. Millions of tortured dead are littered all over Asia. May their souls find peace despite your ugly distortion!

    If the Japanese believe they have done wrong and are truly an honourable people, they should clearly admit like the Germans, what they have done and learned from it.

    Otherwise you are going to invite the destruction of Japan as a civilised modern state which before Abe and other right wingers has done a lot of good for Asia and the world over the years. Abe is simply going to reverse all the goodwill which more enlightened Japanese leaders have painstakingly cultivated over the years in Asia.

  • Christopher Glen

    Abe is a political nitwit, and by his actions at yasukuni he has likely set back relations with China and South Korea by years. People tend to overlook the museum at yasukuni glorifying Japan’s imperialistic past. That in addition to the war criminals enshrined at yasukuni makes the whole place a powder keg for international museums. Arlington has no war criminals enshrined there, nor does it have a “glorious” museum. An incorrect analogy on the part of Abe

  • Christopher Glen

    True enough about Mao, but the whole point is Japan’s problems with its neighbours not China’s domestic past

  • David E. Spence

    Wars are entered into by governments and fought by its citizens. There is nothing wrong with honoring those who died in war. Yes, Japan (as a government) was the aggressor in WWII. And they were defeated. It has been 68 years since the end of WWII in the Pacific. Post war Japan has done far more for Southeast Asia since the war than China has. And both China and Korea have benefitted unbelievably by Japan’s investments and aid. I was a Great Depression baby and my brother died in the Pacific in WWII. I moved on a long time ago. It is high time we all moved on.

  • The Truth

    To worship war criminals who killed innocent civilians and treat them as gods?

  • The Truth

    I don’t understand why people always associate China’s condemnation with her domestic issues. Every country has domestic issues and one should not single out China just that her government is different. So why not we can also come to the conclusion that South Korea is using this as a smoke screen for domestic issues too.

  • The Truth

    The visit is condemned by China, Korea, Russia, US, Singapore, Thailand. Most Japanese also disagree with the visit. Your view is just a minority view at best.

  • The Truth

    Japan invaded its neighbors long before 1941. Japan occupied Taiwan, Korea and then Manchuria in 1933. Full invasion of China in 1937. US embargo was imposed as a result of Japan invasion of China. It was not there for no reason.

  • The Truth

    The embargo was used to put pressure on Japan to slow down its invasion of China or to force Japan to make peace with China. Obviously it put Japan in a difficult position but that was exactly the intention. It was Japan’s aggression that caused the embargo.

  • CS

    Just because you say something doesn’t make it true. Not only have you not shown it to be the case (your asking me to google it is a laughable dodge, since I did google it and confirmed that your claims about the US, Russia, Thailand, and Singapore “condemning” the visit are glaringly wrong, which I already knew), but it is simply untrue that my views are in the minority: actually less than half of Japanese think that Abe’s visiting Yasukuni is a bad idea, according to official polls. Your attempt at an argumentum ad populum is not even worth a real reply. Denial indeed.

  • The Truth

    Just name one country that support the visit by Abe. If you can’t you already failed your argument CS. You are entitled to your view but the world is not on your side.

  • The Truth

    Overtime they will be accepted? That means they are not accepted by the world now. I agree with this. This is the point I am trying to tell you and you finally admitted it. Great.

  • Kamemura Hidetoshi

    I was just asking since my ideas are merely based on the history textbook(allegedly whitewashed):
    1. Back then Asia esp. area around South Asia was tacitly or not targeted and colonized by the European colonial powers as was evidenced by France’s Indochina(now Vietnam), Holland’s East India(now Indonesia) and U.S.’s Phillipines, not to mention U.K’s India, Myanmar, and Malaysia. etc. With this international circumstances, Japan was always feeling scared and threatened by the likely course of history, i.e. colonization of Japan, not to mention Korea and majority of China by the European colonial powers. In order to fend off that scenario, Japan needed to strengthen itself.
    2. In order to strengthen itself, Japan needed to expand looking for the resources. (Of course on this point, Japan should have rethought its plan on the “moral” ground. Or better yet, Japan should have taken all those colonial European powers to the international trial on the ground of morality and crime against humanity… )
    3. Of course, in the course of and realization of Japan’s short-sighted expansionism, Japan conjured up the Manifest Destiny: Liberate the Asia from the hands of the European colonial powers. (Of course, as we now know clearly, it turned out exacerbating the situation a lot worse because it was just another colonial power to the local people. )

    Or, surely as China and Korea argue, Japanese race is inherently “barbaric” nature, so it was an aggressor from the beginning.

    These are my idea of why Japan “started” the war.
    So as you claim, if the claim that Japan was either way an aggressor since it started the war was true, can you think of any way that Japan could have possibly stopped its war or have not started it from the beginning?

  • clayton

    You are right that Its the Abe type that I abhor