Today should be the best of days. A day of celebration of the end of the worst of all wars. The end of the rule of this blessed land by an oligarchy of military officers. A celebration of the end of the needless sacrifice of millions soldiers and tens of millions of civilians to a false god, a faith that security is bought through the elimination of potential threats on one's horizon, pursued and acquired with blood and treasure, only for horizon to move ahead, non erit finis. It should be a celebration of the end of the long subjugation of the Korean peoples and the attempt to extirpate their culture. The end of the 80 year struggle between China and Japan for mastery of East Asia, a conflict that left both devastated and impoverished.
It should be a day of remembrance, yes for the soldiers who died in the conflict, but more importantly the civilians, who had no part in the conflict between the military men, other than to be crushed and blown to pieces by the machine of war.
A day to raise a glass and say, "It ended on this day."
But it will likely not be the best of days. It will likely be one of the worst.
State Minister for the Abduction Issue and Chairman of the National Security Commission Matsubara Jin and Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Hata Yuichiro promised to visit Yasukuni today. Matsubara earlier this morning made good on this promise. If and when Hata makes good on his promise, these will be the first visits to Yasukuni by Cabinet ministers since the Democratic Party of Japan took power three years ago. It will be the first visit by more than one Cabinet member since the Koizumi years.
Matsubara has always been a paid-in, Grade Triple-A, choice member of the right-wing bag of nuts. His right-wing bona fides were why prime minister Noda Yoshihiko handed him for the Abductee portfolio, which the DPJ had been passing around like a hot potato. Matsubara was always a candidate for the DPJ-member most likely to visit the shrine on August 15. He has simply made good on the threat that he posed.
Hata has never featured prominently in right wing newsmaking . He has been a regular attendee of August 15 legislators' visits to Yasukuni. A member of the House of Councillors, he is not up for reelection next year; this is no bald electoral stunt. His father Tutsomu, however, seems too ill to run for his House of Representatives seat. So Hata Junior is possibly positioning himself for a run for his father's seat.
Nagano Prefecture is not seen as a part of the conservative heartland. Hata the Younger is a real legacy politician, however, with few or no personal achievements or capacities. With the DPJ a damaged electoral brand, it seems that he feels insufficiently confident he has the gravitas to both forego going to Yasukuni today and still win the Nagano #3 seat his father has occupied since 1969.
On the 10th of this month, Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura Osamu asked members of the Cabinet to show self-control as regards official visits to Yasukuni. Matsubara reportedly has and Hata is promising to adhere to the letter, if not the spirit, of Fujimura's request by paying "personal" or "private" visits. (J)
Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko might have asked Matsubara and Hata to suspend their visits or resign as ministers if they really wished to pay their respects. However, any interest Noda may have had in the Japanese Cabinet's demonstrating restraint in the interest of regional peace flew out the window with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's visit to Dokdo/Takeshima on the same day Fujimura made his appeal. After Lee's provocation, no prime minister could survive asking his subordinates to not visit Yasukuni.
In delicious irony, the excuse that the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade made for Lees's visit to Dokdo is exactly the same one Koizumi Jun'ichiro used to give for his visits to Yasukuni: of what business is it of other nations when a leader of a country visits a location inside his own land? (E)
Noda is prickly about matters of Japanese honor. As the son of a Ground Self Defense Forces officer he sometimes takes a swerve toward the crazy as regards the actions of the Imperial Forces. His hair-splitting on the status of the 14 Class A war criminals enshrined at Yasukuni or the procurement of the sex slaves known as the comfort women makes Japan's neighbors nervous. In the case of the comfort women issue, Noda's government out of principle had no strategy to deal with the new situation arising from the South Korean Supreme Court's ordering the country's executive branch to publicize the issue. It was Noda's ignoring Lee's importuning him to make some visible effort as regards reconsideration of the comfort women issue that pushed Lee to make his final determination to visit Dokdo. (J)
Meanwhile, somewhere north of the the Taiwan Straits, a shipload of Hong Kong activists is on course for a collision with Japanese Coast vessels just inside the 12 nautical mile perimeter around the Senkaku Islands. According NHK, the activists will arrive in the area about the Senkakus at around noon today, Japan Standard Time (J). As these confrontations have ended fatally in the past (E) it is inexplicable that Hong Kong authorities did not hinder the vessel's departure.
In South Korea, today is Independence Day. Considering how they have viewed the performances of South Korea's athletes at the London Olympics as an expression of national power and the victory in the South Korea-Japan men's soccer match as an expression of spiritual power (E - Fiction is dead: there is no longer any reason to make stuff up) one shudders to think how today's end of Japanese rule over Korea will be celebrated.
So today will be not a celebration of a region liberated from a hypertrophied, paranoid, expansionist nationalism but indeed the opposite, a series of vignettes reminding the rest of the planet on how much this ideological dead end holds the region in its thrall.
Postscript to “Stephen Walt on WW I Reminds Me…”
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