Thursday, December 26, 2013

Japanese PM Abe Visits Controversial Shrine Honoring WWII Dead

     From the Wall Street Journal:

TOKYO—Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's surprise visit to a shrine linked to the country's militarist past threatens to damage ties with the U.S. and has raised concerns that he may be shifting the spotlight to a nationalist agenda from a focus on the economy.
Mr. Abe visited Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine on Thursday, triggering strong criticism from Beijing and Seoul, but also a rare disapproval by Washington, which has pushed the Asian neighbors to mend ties that are strained by territorial disputes and differences over wartime history.
Many Asian nations that suffered from Japan's wartime actions view Yasukuni as a symbol of Tokyo's past militarism because it honors not just Japan's war dead but also some convicted World War II war criminals, including Hideki Tojo, who was prime minister for most of the war.
"The United States is disappointed that Japan's leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan's neighbors," said the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo on its website, in an unusual direct criticism of Japan's leader by its main ally.
Mr. Abe has repeatedly said he regretted not visiting the shrine during his first tenure as prime minister from 2006 to 2007 and said his critics misunderstood his intentions. "I offered my respects to those who lost their precious lives for our country, and prayed that their souls may rest in peace," he told reporters after the visit. "I have no intention at all of hurting the feelings of the Chinese or the South Korean people."
Although a well-known conservative who has stated that changing the pacifist constitution drafted by the occupying U.S. forces was his "life's work," Mr. Abe had adopted an economy-first policy after taking office in December 2012, putting his nationalist agenda on the back burner.
Read the rest here.

     This is not good. The fact that this shrine honors bastards like Tojo, is only the surface of this issue. What we are seeing here is one of the precursor events to the return of Japan as a military power in the Western Pacific. Abe's government has already proposed a spending increase for defense, and Abe himself has advocated amending the Japanese constitution to allow for war. A well armed Japan is not a bad thing, rather it is a very good thing. However, a Japan that returns to a militaristic version of the Shinto religion, is a very bad thing. It was the Shinto religion that gave Japan the basis for it's perceived racial superiority in WWII and Bushido, and was instrumental in fueling popular support in Japan for WWII. To have a state endorsement, even a tacit endorsement, of this religion would allow it eventually to seep back into mainstream Japanese culture. This spread could be fueled by tensions over China's aggression with the establishment of their new ADIZ, tensions over the Senkakus, and tensions with South Korea over various small islands.
     Abe stepped over a major line with these actions, not only symbolically spitting in the face of South Korea, but also angering China (though that's not necessarily a bad thing). It is interesting to note that Abe's grandfather on his mother's side (Nobusuke Kishi)was a member of Tojo's WWII cabinet, and made some remarks implying his condoning the actions of Tojo in WWII. In other words, Abe's grandfather supported Tojo and Tojo's actions in WWII.
     Watch Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party over the next few years. Expect rearmament, a possible amendment to the Japanese constitution revising Chapter 2, Article II, and more power given the national government.

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