US analysts think Abe's shrine visit a mistake

Updated: 2013-12-31 11:02


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WASHINGTON -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's recent trip to the controversial Yasukuni shrine is "a serious foreign policy mistake" that poses diplomatic problems for the United States and threatens allied security interests in Asia, U.S. analysts said on Monday.

The trip is "a serious foreign policy mistake that threatens allied security interests in Asia," said Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation think tank.

"Although Abe expressed 'severe remorse' for Japan's historic actions, he should have realized that the visit was needlessly provocative and would exacerbate already strained relations with the United States and South Korea," Klingner told Xinhua.

Abe's visit, which came on the first anniversary of his premiership, has sparked outcries from countries suffering from Japan's war atrocities and around the world, as the shrine in central Tokyo honors Japan's war dead, including 14 Class A war criminals from the World War II.

The visit was the first by a sitting Japanese prime minister since former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi paid his respects there in 2006.

During the past year, Abe has questioned some accounts of Japan's wartime conduct and was trying to lead Japan away from its post- war pacificism by raising the country's military budget for the first time in eleven years, approving a new national security strategy and defense policy to expand Japan's military might, and seeking to revise the country's pacifist Constitution to allow for a fully developed military instead of a purely defensive force.

Klingner said Washington would like to see Japan assume " greater responsibilities" to cope with rising security threats in the region, yet Abe "has unnecessarily jeopardized allied security plans to enhance regional stability."

"Abe's earlier revisionist historic comments had diverted attention from these real security risks by enabling the misperception of 'resurgent Japanese militarism,'" he explained.

For the Obama administration, Abe's Yasukuni visit is " problematic" in terms of foreign policy, said Michael Green, senior vice president for Asia and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington.

The Obama administration has been seeking stronger alliance between Japan and South Korea, two U.S.' treaty allies, to address regional issues, but has failed to persuade South Korean President Park Geun-hye to meet with Abe to smooth over differences arising from territorial disputes and wartime issues.

Washington sees Tokyo as a "very trustworthy" ally as it is rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific region, Green noted.