Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka, in a reversal of her earlier remarks, told the Diet Monday that further revision of controversial history textbooks that have already been approved by education authorities will be difficult.
Meanwhile, in the same Lower House Budget Committee session, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi made it clear he will visit Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15, the anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II, “as prime minister.”
“No matter if I will come under criticism from other nations, I must pay my respects to those who were forced to go to war for their families and for the country . . . and make it clear that (Japan) will never again wage war,” Koizumi said.
Tanaka’s remarks on the textbook dispute are an about-face from her previous stance, which she claimed had been based solely on media reports instead of her own research.
“Unless an obvious factual error is found, revisions cannot be made to the textbooks that have already cleared rigid screening (by the Education Ministry)” despite demands from South Korea, Tanaka told the Budget Committee session.
Tanaka had earlier criticized the publisher and authors of the controversial textbook, saying that some people are “trying to distort history.”
Later in the Diet session, Tanaka brushed aside criticism that she canceled a meeting last week with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, saying that the meeting had never officially been set.
Tanaka, whose troubled relations with senior Foreign Ministry bureaucrats have come under public scrutiny, said Japanese and U.S. officials were still adjusting schedules when the media speculated that Tanaka must have canceled the meeting given that other senior government leaders, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, already met with Armitage.
“So it is not possible to cancel” the meeting since it was never officially set up, Tanaka insisted in replies to questions she fielded during the budget committee session. “I have not heard complaints from the U.S. government.”
But Tanaka admitted that she had told U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, when they talked over the phone on May 2, that she looked forward to meeting with Armitage.
Since taking the post in late April, Tanaka has criticized senior Foreign Ministry bureaucrats for either ignoring or resisting her instructions on personnel matters.
The bureaucrats in turn are criticizing Tanaka for neglecting diplomatic duties by canceling a series of diplomatic talks, including those with Armitage.
Last week, Tanaka explained that she could not meet with Armitage because she was busy with “personal business.”
During the committee session, Tanaka complained that she felt “intimidated” by top Foreign Ministry bureaucrats who are trying to protect their own interests.
Tanaka went on to describe herself as being in an “extreme situation” after taking office as foreign minister after two weeks of campaigning with Koizumi during the Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential race last month.
She likened the situation to being aboard a “nonstop train,” adding that she was “on the verge of panic” due to the tight schedules and a constant stream of lectures on diplomatic issues.
However, Naoto Kan, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force, said that Tanaka, as Japan’s foreign minister, should not cancel diplomatic meetings for personal reasons.
“The foreign minister should have met (with Armitage) at any cost,” Kan said, adding Tanaka should offer an apology to Armitage. In other matters, Koizumi reiterated his determination to resolve the nation’s debt-ridden finances.
Japanese politics lacks “the spirit of self-help and autonomy,” he said in response to a Diet colleague’s question. “I am distressed to see politicians losing the mentality to judge themselves in terms of the nation’s fiscal health.
“It’s a world of politics where the sprit of self-help and autonomy is lacking the most.” He then urged Diet members to observe “fiscal discipline.”
He also indicated that fiscal and other structural reforms will be given priority over the government’s 1.7 percent growth target for fiscal 2001.
“It will be good, of course, if we can achieve the economic growth target, but we should decide what to do after realizing the proposed reforms first,” Koizumi said.
With the nation’s debts estimated to reach a whopping 666 trillion yen next March, Koizumi has already announced that he will cap the issuance of government bonds for fiscal 2002 at 30 trillion yen.
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