Prime Minister Abe Shinzo's chief courier Hagiuda Ko'ichi has clocked in with what the press are interpreting as a prime ministerial promise to visit Yasukuni by year's end. (Link)
Hagiuda's rise to prominence (TBS had him on their morning roundtable talk show as the representative of the government) over the past ten months has been spectacular. He is only 50 years of age and in only his third term as a member of the House of Representatives. Until December of last year he had been cooling his heels in the hallways of Nagatacho, having lost his seat in the 2009 massacre (Fun fact that Hagiuda displays on his personal website: more folks voted for him in his loss in 2009 than voted for him in his win in 2012 -- Link - J). Yet now he is Abe's government's unofficial mouthpiece.
As for a promise/threat to visit Yasukuni before the year is out, can there be a more blunt way of making sure nothing good happens in the near future in Sino-Japanese or South Korea-Japan relations? Why would anyone in the Chinese or South Korean governments, much less President Xi Jinping or Park Geun-hye, want to be caught dead in a photo frame with a member of the Japanese government, with an Abe pilgrimage to Yasukuni impending?
Then again, in terms of ex post facto ratiocination, there is genius in the giving of advance notice. Abe has been trying and failing to secure even a short conversation on the sidelines of a multilateral summit with either Xi or Park. Being shunned by the leaders of the two other big regional powers, even after the LDP's thumping win in the July House of Councillors election, has been humiliating for the PM.
Now, however, rejection by his peers can be explained away with a breezy:
"Of course I want to talk to Xi and Park. But they know I am going to visit Yasukuni by year's end. Meeting with me right now could get them in hot water at home. So I understand their being unwilling to be seen in public with me. I don't take their standoffishness personally."
A brilliant pivot, if the above is indeed an accurate description of Team Abe's transformation of a lemon into lemonade.