Abe's coalition ally slams shrine visit

Updated: 2014-01-04 01:41

By Zhou Wa and Zhang Fan (China Daily)

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe got himself into domestic, as well as diplomatic, hot water for his Dec 26 visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, as the head of the party allied with his coalition has joined the international community in expressing displeasure at his behavior.

Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of the New Komeito Party, an ally to the Liberal Democratic Party's ruling coalition, urged Abe to consider the concerns of other countries and try to repair relations with China and the Republic of Korea.

"The visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last year has undoubtedly caused criticism from China and South Korea. Even the United States, Russia and the EU have voiced their concern and disappointment," Yamaguchi was quoted by China Central Television as saying.

"I think Abe should listen to their voices and demonstrate Japan's willingness to contribute to world peace and stability," he said in a street talk on Thursday.

Japan's relations with its Asian neighbors have not improved in the last year and must take a huge step forward to improve mutual ties, he added.

Abe's visit to the shrine that honors 14 Class-A war criminals from World War II was the first to be made by a Japanese prime minister in office since 2006.

According to Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun, Abe also plans to visit island nations in the southern Pacific Ocean over the next two years to honor Japanese soldiers buried there and expedite the retrieval of their remains. The nations witnessed battles between Japan and the US during the Pacific War.

Yamaguchi, as leader of Abe's partner party in the coalition, was offering indirect advice to Abe with his remarks, Kyodo News noted.

Fuji Television also said Yamaguchi's words should be taken as sincere counsel for Abe's administration.

"It shows that not all political forces in Japan support Abe and his visit to the shrine, which makes him face domestic pressure," said Wang Junsheng, a researcher in East Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Beside domestic admonition, the prime minister's visit also triggered wide criticism from countries and organizations inside and outside the region.

Referring to the incident, ROK President Park Geun-hye said in a phone conversation with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday that no country should be allowed to hurt its regional neighbors by breaching trust.

Ban said he was disappointed that the bad blood in Northeast Asia had deepened in the wake of Abe's shrine visit, CCTV reported.

The purpose of his visit was to display approval of Japan's aggression rather than to honor the memory the dead, US writer John Scott told People's Daily. It also shows that Abe has a mentality similar to the World War II criminals and that he admires them, Scott said.

"Abe's wrong historical understanding is not only shown by his visit to the shrine but is well-known by the international community," said Huo Jiangang, a researcher on Japanese studies with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

In his New Year's message published on Wednesday, Abe reaffirmed his resolve to change Japan's pacifist postwar Constitution, which limits Japan's military to self-defense, and said the document could be amended by 2020.

Japan's continuing desire to change the status quo will deepen its reputation as a troublemaker in East Asia with its ally the US, said Huo, adding that the stance will push Japan into isolation in the international community.

Contact the writers at zhouwa@chinadaily.com.cn and zhangfan1@chinadaily.com.cn