Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit Thursday to Yasukuni Shrine, Japan's war shrine, is a thoughtless act that could lead Japan into isolation in the international community. It also revealed his shallow understanding of the immense destruction that Japan's wars in the 1930s and 1940s brought about and the role that Yasukuni Shrine played in wartime Japan.
At the very least Abe's visit will put Japan into a very difficult position in the region by reminding other Asians of their or their ancestors' suffering at the hands of Japan during its colonial rule, war of aggression and military occupation. The visit could also have wider consequences for Japan as shown by the fact that the United States — Japan's security alliance partner — officially and publicly expressed its disappointment at his visit.
Abe visited Yasukuni Shrine — his first as prime minister — on the first anniversary of the establishment of his current Cabinet. He had repeatedly said that it was a "matter of the greatest regret" that he could not pay a visit to Yasukuni — which enshrines not only Japan's 2.46 million war dead but also 14 Class-A war criminals — during his first stint as prime minister from September 2006 to September 2007. In connection with his visit, Abe said, "I paid a visit to Yasukuni Shrine and expressed my sincere condolences, paid my respects and prayed for the souls of all those who had fought for the country and made ultimate sacrifices."