The adult reaction to Abe Shinzo's Yasukuni visits (by the way, Abe is going to pay a visit to the shrine again this year -- whether Xi Jinping dangles the prospect of a summit in front of him or not) would be:
"OK, OK. It is horrible. Terrible. Lamentable. However, if all that it takes to keep Abe and his hopped-up followers to be happy is his pretending for one day a year that if he goes to a special hall he can then talk to ghosts, fine. What we in the real world get in return is 364 days of dealing with a politically invulnerable and almost avuncular Japanese prime minister whose name we can actually remember."
A not entirely distasteful prospect, one would think.
But as the Washingon Post editorial on makes clear, visiting Yasukuni is seen not as Abe Shinzo seeking stress relief. Instead visiting Yasukuni is an impediment to Japan's casting off its special status of a nation with a peace constitution:
But Mr. Abe has needlessly stoked those fears. His visit to a Shinto shrine where Japanese war criminals are honored, statements that have seemed to question the extent of Japan’s culpability in the war, and his associations with right-wing politicians whose statements are even more extreme — all of these have made his motives suspect in neighbors' eyes. That, in turn, has complicated his reasonable quest to turn Japan, nearly seven decades after war’s end, into a more "normal" country."The gist of the editorial is rather simple and rather straightforward:
"We, the Wise Men and Women of the West, want a Japan that will work hand-in-glove with our already pretty ideal friend South Korea to be the bulwark of freedom and democracy in the East Asian region which we so very much no longer wish to be because doing anything hard and complicated takes us away from working on the remodel of the kitchens of our second homes in the countryside."
To harsh an assessment?
I am not ashamed to admit my being indisposed toward any essay beginning its arguments with the hoary "if North Korea fires a missile passing high over the Japanese islands, the commanders of Japanese Kongo-class Aegis destroyers do not have permission to order a missile shoot-down, even if the computed trajectory of the missile predicts impact in U.S. territory" canard. This is the rhetoric of an Okazaki Hisahiko, conjuring up phantasms of Japanese passivity in order that we might wet ourselves.
What the author (my guess is that his initials are F. H.) of this editorial fails to consider is whether the citizens of Japan or South Korea have any interest in being the docile pieces under the control of the American grand master. The answer to that question is that they do not, not now, not for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, the peoples of the two countries do not want to work with each other on security affairs if only because making China feel further ostracized and beset is not in their interests (Of course, inducing the Chinese to feel the world is ganging up on the Country of the Center is indeed in nobody's interest).
Also glossed over is the matter of the reinterpretation debate, the core issue highlighted by the excellent New York Time editorial of 10 days ago (Link). While plurality or even a majority of the population (depending upon the poll one consults) are currently sceptical about collective self-defense in general, a larger majority is fairly clear, even at this early stage, that there is no reinterpretation eye of the constitutional needle that the camel of CSD can pass through. These negative numbers will increase if the Abe Cabinet tries either to explain its views of reinterpretation, or worse, seeks to bum rush the necessary Cabinet Decision without a broad public and intra-Diet consensus.
It would be helpful if the Serious Adults of the sort who can pound out these opinion pieces remembered that one should not ever make policy prescriptions on the basis of what would be convenient for oneself. One has to try harder than that and make the case for settling for that which serves the interests of all.