The Yasukuni Shrine question continues to stir the international politics. After Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s most recent visit to Yasukuni on December 26, 2013, a few nations became aggravated. A list of the aggravated parties of course included the regulars like China and South Korea. But the surprise was that it also included the US, which voiced its “disappointment” through the Embassy in Tokyo. During the Koizumi administration, with repeated visitations to Yasukuni, the US remained silent. Or even sometimes Bush administration seemed to have appreciated Japan’s resilient stance in the face of Chinese opposition as to restrain the latter’s burgeoning influence in East Asia.
But why is the “disappointment” this time? And because of this expression of the disappointment, China and South Korea have become much more aggressive in bashing Japan’s growing “militarism” indicated by PM Abe’s visit. The intention of the US government is in no way clear, but it surely does not simply mean that the US supports Chinese government in her claim of Japan becoming militaristic. After all, it was the US that supported Japan militaristically vis-a-vis China after the latter’s drawing the new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in East China Sea. Regardless of the intension of the US Embassy’s expression, the visit to the shrine has been “interpreted” by the rest of the world as Japan’s “militarization.” So the better question to ask is whether this growing militarism is really true as busily clamored by China and South Korea.
One thing is for certain: the Prime minister’s visitation does not mean that Japan is becoming militaristic. Some, even in Japan, have repeatedly argued along the line. However, regarding the present visit, PM Abe clearly indicated that his visit was not to glorify the past and stir up nationalism, but to commemorate and mourn for all those who persisted during the war. Again, it is important to note that PM Abe at Yasukuni mourns for all the loss, not just Japanese or “war criminals.” This is indicated by the fact that he did not just visit the main shrine but also Chinreisha (鎮霊社), built in 1965 for every loss in battles and wars.
After the visits to the shrine, PM Abe expressed his determination to create the new era, in which no one would suffer as a result of any war. His intention, in other words, was to remain true to Japan’s commitment to peace of the world. These things clearly indicate that the visit to the shrine does not entail Japan’s becoming militaristic.
So why does China and South Korea loudly exclaim that Abe administration is stirring Japan to become more militaristic? That is the question that the rest of the world must wonder about. What is the benefit of the claim of Japan becoming militaristic? Which country since the issue over Senkaku has become much more aggressive regarding territory and ADIZ? South Korea also needs to stop demonizing Japan at any possible occasion, but especially with Yasukuni, to dazzle her own people’s eyes off from various economic and domestic problems.
Am I then saying that PM Abe’s visits to Yasukuni and the Yasukuni Question are without any issue? Of course there are multiple problems with it. But they are mostly domestic problems. Ideally, there will be a more religiously neutral place of commemoration and mourning for war victims since Yasukuni, after all, is a Shinto Shrine. Many Japanese whose religious commitments are not of Shinto would like to mourn with a clear conscience. However, this is a domestic problem. It should not cause any international problem as has done with this visit in December.
Is Japanese government, led by PM Abe, becoming more militaristic? No, it clearly is not. Is PM Abe committed to the world peace, especially in Asia, as all the previous PMs since Japan has regained its independence in 1952? Yes, he is. Then, let not China and South Korea use the Yasukuni Question to bash Japan to hide their domestic and international problems. Regardless of the true meaning of the US “disappointment,” it certainly is not caused by Japan’s growing militarism.