Monday, August 15, 2005

Koizumi Passes on Yasukuni


Will he or won't he? was the question on East Asia's lips as the 60th anniversary of Japan's World War II surrender approached. Would Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi make an August 15 trip to the Yasukuni Shrine or not?

As I've written in the past, the question of whether Koizumi would visit a revisionist memorial to Japan's war dead and war criminals, on the symbolic date of Japan's surrender, has occupied East Asia for months.

Now, the L.A. Times' Bruce Wallace writes, Koizumi not only blew off visiting Yasukuni in favor of a visit and joint peace pledge with Emperor Akihito, he issued Japan's umpteenth apology for its aggression during World War II:

... On a day marked in other parts of Asia by demonstrations recalling victory over Japanese occupation and brutality, Koizumi issued a statement reaffirming his country's peaceful intentions.

"Japan is resolved to contribute to world peace and prosperity without starting a war again," the statement said. He went on to apologize for his country's role in the conflict: "Japan caused huge damage and suffering to many countries, especially the people of Asia, with its colonization and aggression.

"Humbly accepting this fact of history, we again express our deep remorse and heartfelt apology and offer our condolences to the victims of the war at home and abroad," the statement said.

This is a pretty big move for Koizumi, who is in major political trouble at home and ignores rising Japanese nationalism at his peril. His job is on the line in Japan's September 11 elections—but Wallace speculates that shunning the Yasukuni shrine is just part of Koizumi's strategy to paint his electoral opponents as political dinosaurs who can't cope with a new, China-dominated East Asia.

Koizumi's tactics should also help ease Japan's strained relations with the PRC and both Koreas.

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