Nationalism not on the rise: Abe’s brother


Nationalism is “absolutely not” on the rise and Japan remains committed to peace almost 70 years after its defeat in World War II, said Vice Foreign Minister Nobuo Kishi, the younger brother of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Abe’s December visit to Yasukuni Shrine, which is seen by many in China and South Korea as a symbol of Japan’s past aggression, prompted the U.S. to express disappointment with its main ally in Asia.

Comments by Abe’s associates playing down wartime atrocities by Imperial Japanese forces have also led to criticism, with The New York Times saying in an editorial March 2 that Abe’s nationalism threatens ties with the U.S. as well as other nations in the region.

“Such suggestions are absolutely not right,” Kishi said in an interview Friday at the Foreign Ministry. “For 68 years since the war, our country has made contributions to international society as a nation that strives for peace.”

That won’t change under the Abe administration, he said.

Anger at Japan’s perceived ambivalence over its invasion and occupation of large parts of Asia in the first half of the 20th century has further soured already difficult relations with China and South Korea.

While the U.S. has urged Japan to engage with its neighbors, Abe has not held a summit with either country since taking office in December 2012.

“I am aware there are various criticisms of Japan, and if there are misunderstandings I want to explain so as to resolve them,” Kishi said.

He reiterated that Abe’s assertion that his visit to Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Class A war criminals alongside the nation’s war dead, was intended to pray for lasting peace. Abe was the first sitting prime minister to go to the shrine since 2006.

Disagreements over history have not affected Japan’s overall relationship with the U.S., Kishi said.

“When talking about U.S.-Japan relations, you need to look at the whole picture,” he said. “I think you can say strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance is at the top of the list of the things the Abe administration has done.”

Kishi, 54, declined comment on the plan for Abe to hold a meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye and U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit Monday and Tuesday in The Hague. The three-way summit had not yet been confirmed when Kishi was interviewed.

  • Steve Jackman

    In my more than ten years of living in Japan, I have noticed a marked increase in nationalism (of the negative kind), racism, discrimination and xenophobia. So, Mr. Kishi is either demonstrating his ignorance or he is being disingenuous.

  • Demosthenes

    I don’t know about it not affecting relations with the U.S. Caroline Kennedy refused an interview on NHK, specifically because one of the NHK bosses denied that the Nanjing Massacre occurred. Then there was the White House’s expression of disappointment when Abe visited Yasukuni. Insofar as Japan not going to the ultra-right is concerned, what evidence does Kishi present to assure that this is not the case? A denial isn’t proof, nor are broad generalizations about recent history like “68 years of being committed to peace”. Attitudes can change overnight. These assurances are unlikely to persuade those many foreign observers that are of the opinion that Japan IS going to the ultra-right.

  • Nixon

    And what’s wrong with Japan’s (or any other countries’ citizens for that matter) growing nationalism?

  • bluetortilla

    Nationalism and racism is most certainly on the rise in Japan and at a very fast pace. I hear countless stories from Japanese people believing everything they read on the Internet involving racist and nationalistic tracks. It is common for propagandists to accuse China of ‘making up’ Japanese atrocities in WWII, and the US dropping the atomic bomb purely for experimental purposes. While I concede that experimentation may have been one goal for some US leaders in dropping the atomic bomb, the truth is that the event should be a stimulus to the world to rid ourselves of the thousands of bombs we have now, ready to fire at a moment’s notice. I cannot understand why Japanese nationalists are trying to take the moral high ground with China, a country that Japan invaded in the first place, not the other way around, and a country that is poised to perhaps become the world’s preeminent power in the next few decades. What are these people hoping to accomplish by their hate mongering? Do they want to start another war with China? If the US backs out, they would lose in weeks.
    Many people here are simply willing to believe whatever is fed to them by any idiot bigot with a web site. They do not need documentation or citations. There is no rhyme or reason to it, and it exposes a population that has been brainwashed by an education system that fosters no critical thinking and passivity. It shows me that this nation could be re-militarized in a matter of years if they wanted, and patriotism could once again become the ambiance of the day. If Japan continues the way it is and does not forge friendly relations with its neighbors, both diplomatic and cultural, there will be hell to pay.