A top aide to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lashed out Friday at U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration for expressing disappointment over the Japanese leader’s contentious visit to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine, saying past Republican-led U.S. administrations would not have responded in such a fashion.
“The past administrations led by Republicans weren’t nitpickers who would play it up like that,” Koichi Hagiuda, who serves as special adviser to Abe as head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, told a party gathering closed to the media, according to participants.
“It is just because the current administration is led by Democrats, and by President Obama,” House of Representatives lawmaker Hagiuda was quoted as saying at the meeting.
Hagiuda later confirmed with Kyodo News that he had made the comments at the meeting, but denied any intention to criticize the Obama administration.
Hagiuda also compared Yasukuni Shrine with Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia that honors U.S. veterans.
“If Japan says (to U.S. leaders) ‘It’s unfavorable to pay a visit to Arlington National Cemetery,’ do they refrain from going there?” Hagiuda was quoted as saying. “I would assume the United States will say ‘It’s none of a foreign country’s business.’ “
Prime Minister Abe paid homage at Yasukuni Shrine on Dec. 26, the first anniversary of his taking office, raising the ire of China and South Korea. China suffered Japan’s wartime aggression, and the Korean Peninsula suffered during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule. Yasukuni honors Japan’s war dead, as well as convicted Class-A war criminals.
After his visit, the United States, Japan’s principal ally, said it was “disappointed that Japan’s leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan’s neighbors.”
Referring to the prime ministers who avoided visiting Yasukuni because of the predictable political and diplomatic fallout, Hagiuda called on fellow LDP lawmakers to remember what the party is built for.
“We will lose the very purpose of why our party exists if we do our politics by caring too much about how people think and whether support ratings would fall, albeit temporarily,” Hagiuda told the meeting.
He also stressed the need to seek support from the international community to what he called Japan’s consistent stance.
Hagiuda said China’s escalation of criticism since Abe’s visit is against the rule of noninterference in domestic affairs under the peace and friendship treaty signed in 1978 between Japan and China.