Thursday, August 15, 2013

Live Blogging The Yasukuni Visit Shuffle

12:55 - If the current level of Cabinet visitation of Yasukuni holds -- with only the Terrible Trio paying their respects in person and the Prime Minister sending an envoy -- then the "Japan is turning rightward" argument really does not hold up.

By staying away from Yasukuni when he was but a few hundred meters away, Abe Shinzo has lobbed the ball into the Chinese leadership's side of the court. Plainly and without shouting, he has declared, "There, I have foregone my favorite ceremonial act and my electoral base's litmus test to reach out to you. What, if anything are you going to do for me?"


12:10 - The Prime Minister and the Emperor have delivered their speeches at the official war's end ceremony at the Nihon Budokan. Neither man's speech, in a cursory listen, had anything surprising or new in it.

For the record, the PM, in addition to the official noontime ceremony, did lay a wreath at around 11:30 a.m. on the altar to the unknown war dead at Chidorigafuchi. (Link)

11:55 - Minister for Administrative Reform and a few other things Inada Tomomi has basically confirmed that she will visit Yasukuni later today. After this morning's cabinet meeting she told reporters, "I believe it is accepted that the citizens of a sovereign nation have the right to show their gratitude, respect and condolences for those who have given up their lives for country."

If Inada does go, three of the four most radical members of the Cabinet (Education Minister Shimomura Hakubun is on an official overseas trip), the three I have dubbed the Terrible Trio, will all have paid their respects on this the most sensitive day.

(Note that by saying, "those have given up their lives for their country" (jibun no kuni no tame ni inochi o sasageta katagata, she includes those who were executed or died after being imprisonned for doing what they thought was right.)

10:10 - Hagiuda Ko'ichi, member of the House of Representatives (Tokyo District #24), the Special Advisor to the Party President (a rarely filled Liberal Democratic Party advisory position) and rugby enthusiast (he is 180cm tall and weighs 93 kg) has visited Yasukuni as Prime Minister Abe Shinzo's representative. He paid for an offering (tamagushiryo) in the PM's name, supposedly with money that the PM gave him, and signed the register "Abe Shinzo, President of the LDP" on the PM's behalf. (Link - J)

10:05 - Correction, Furuya Keiji paid his respects in an official capacity, signing the register as "Minister of State, Furuya Keiji."

9:30 - Shindo Yoshitaka, minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, grandson of Kuribayashi Tadamichi, the commander of the defense of Iojima (Iwo Jima), and failed visitor to Ulleung-do (Link) has visited in a private capacity.

Furuya Keiji, Chairman of the National Public Safety Commission and the Minister of State for the Abduction Issue, and a Abe family retainer, has visited in a private capacity. Asked for comment, he replied, "I paid homage as a Japanese."

(It's not as though anyone was expecting him to pay homage as a Korean...)

(Link - J)


Philippe said...

Abe-san's non-visit is a thank you note to the Chinese Government for not allowing Hong-Kong activists to go to the islands.

MTC said...

Philippe -

Too small an item of exchange. Abe wants something big -- a summit invitation -- in return for what he did not do today.

Anonymous said...

I read (courtesy of SNA) that this was the first anniversary speech by a PM to drop the pledge to not engage in war. Do you think that is significant?

Philippe said...

He may want something big, sure, that's Abe ‘tout craché’, megalomaniac. The whole game over the past 2~3 weeks has been one of give and take and relatively positive. The Chinese leaderships keeps the crazies at home - and both the Jpn and Chinese Coastal Guards work together to keep them out, see that lone sailor intrusion. Then Abe reigns in the crazies at home (today, 08/15). But he may have to settle for small steps for now. He (Abe) might have to work a little harder for a big bang. The omissions in his speech today are … interesting (ahem). I don't think that will go down too well in a lot of chancelleries (along with recent past ’pronunciamentos’).

SJM said...

I think Abe missed an opportunity to improve the likelihood of a China-Japan summit. Neither China nor South Korea seemed impressed by Abe forgoing a visit to Yasukuni, partly because other Cabinet members visited and partly because he still provided an offering to a shrine seen as a focal point for revisionist history. Additionally, Abe's statement at the memorial service made no reference to any sense of regret for Japan's wartime aggression, a break from recent practice which hasn't gone unnoticed. There's a curious passage in the PM's statement: "The peace and prosperity that we now enjoy have been built upon the sacrifices of you who gave up your precious lives." It sounds like PM Abe is saying that Japan's peace and prosperity today is somehow due to the sacrifice of those who fought in World War 2, which seems to miss the point that said war wrecked havoc on all of Asia, including Japan. The Emperor's statement got it better, noting peace and prosperity in today's Japan are the result of the hard work of the Japanese people after the war's end.

In the end though, China at the moment doesn't seem to think there's much value added in a summit with Japan, or that it would get as much out of the meeting as Japan would. PM Abe will have to work harder to convince China that it's in both countries' interests to maintain a high-level dialogue on mutual concerns before tensions spiral out of control.

MTC said...

Anonymous -

My understanding is that Abe is the first PM to skip the sentences on Asia since Murayama Tomiichi inserted them in 1994.

MTC said...

Philippe -

Abe will not interpret Chinese keeping their activists from the Senkakus as a gift. For the Abe government, China's keeping its citizens from the Senkakus is the obligation of a good neighbor, especially since China has been acting as the guardian of ethnic Chinese activists in their provocations.

MTC said...


Abe wants the postwar to end. Stopping the apologies is a first step.

While the omission of the apologies is distressing, Abe's willingness to depart from precedent at least has the virtue of being sincere.

As for the peculiar thanks to the dead for a prosperity with which they had no connection, it is a standard phrase of gobbledy-gook about a decade old. It makes its appearance in speeches and Diet interpellations -- and makes zero sense each and every time.

SJM said...

MTC, Abe certainly wants to move on from the legacies of the war, as can be seen in his forward-looking statements on his commitment to peace and prosperity in the future as well as his highlighting Japan's commitment to democracy and ODA since the end of the war. Herein lies the reason why Abe will find it difficult to get a summit even with the ROK. Neither Xi nor Park have particularly urgent desires to meet with Abe, as their citizenry does not believe that Japan's political leadership has done enough to clear up the post-war cloud hanging over Japan. From that perspective, the ommission of regret for the past will only set back efforts by Japanese diplomats to lay the grounds for a Japan-China or Japan-ROK summit. I still have hopes for a summit between Japan and the ROK, but perhaps one with China is a non-starter right now, primarily because of the dispute (or lack of acknowledgement of such a dispute) over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islets.

Eamonn said...

Forget China and South Korea- how long can Abe keep making speeches like that before antagonizing the U.S., not mention Australia and a few other countries? Now I understand why he wasn't invited to speak to congress.
I'm generally pro-Japan on many issues but this endless idealization of a blissful Showa-era Japan that exists only in his imagination sure makes it a lot harder.
If Japan can't come to an agreement on the nature of its conduct in WW2, then maybe it would be better off not marking an official observation at all.