Thursday, October 18, 2012

So Three Diet Members Visit Yasukuni…

...and I suppose it’s good enough for brief mention in the national media when they happen to be Shinzo Abe, the new LDP president and odd-on favorite to return to the prime mister’s office after the next lower house election, on the 17th and Yuichiro Hata and Mukio Shimoji, two ministers from the Noda cabinet, one day later.* Pressed by the media on Abe’s visit, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman responded vaguely that “that Japan should strictly abide by its promise on historical issues and handle concerning issues in a responsible way.” As for the two cabinet ministers, my guess is that official China could care less.

For there’s been an unwritten deal in place for quite some time; As long as the prime minster, foreign minister, defense minister, and chief cabinet secretary stay away from Yasukuni while they are in office, official China will not make a fuss. But if they go… well, you saw how official relations chilled when Prime Minister Koizumi persisted in paying his respects at Yasukuni, his condemnation of Class A war criminals, his visits to official Chinese monuments, and the like to no avail.** Give credit to Abe, he declined to reveal whether or not he was visiting Yasukuni while he was prime minister, and he is now refusing to tell us what he’ll do if and when he becomes prime minister. So why should we think otherwise this time around?

I believe that Abe will instead focus on the substance, such as beefing up the Coast Guard and putting Self-Defense personal on Okinawa’s southernmost inhabited islands. There’s an increased potential for physical clashes, most likely unintended, down the line here. And that’s what people should be concerned about.

* The three men are members of the Minna de yasukuni Jinja ni Sanpaisuru Kokkai Giin no Kai (The Association of Diet Members Who Go Together to Worship at the Yasukuni Shrine) includes such notable sinophiles and doves as Ichiro Ozawa, Masahiko Komura, Yasuo Fukuda, and Makoto Koga. Hata and Shimoji went as members of the association.
** There’s an analogy of sorts here to the Chinese reaction to the Noda administration’s attempt to stave off fallout from a purchase of the Senkaku Islands by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

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