Last Thursday, in continuation of his hawkish foreign policy and his disinterest to remedy Japan’s reputation for its acts in World War 2, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. The Yasukuni Shrine honors Japanese World War 2 veterans, including several convicted Class A war criminals, and is a blatant representation of Japan’s militaristic and imperial past. As I had explained in an earlier Pacific Theater post, Imperial Japan attacked and invaded most of the Pacific nations during World War 2. Considering the fact that World War 2 ended less than 60 years ago and that Japan still has yet to claim full responsibility for its past, most of Asia is still agitated with Japanese government.
Obviously, this action drew reactions from Japan’s neighbors. The first statement came from China, Japan’s main pacific rival.
“Under these conditions, not only does the Japanese leader not show restraint, but instead makes things worse by manufacturing another incident over history and creating a new political obstacle to the improvement and development of relations between the two countries. Japan must bear all the consequences arising from this.” stated Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperosn Qin Gang.
The United States was also frustrated with the Japanese government. Even though the two nations are close allies, America views these kinds of actions by Japan as threatening to the stability of the region.
“The United States is disappointed that Japan’s leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan’s neighbors,” a statement posted on the website of the U.S. embassy in Tokyo said.
Finally, a statement came from South Korea as well.
“Our government cannot but deplore and express anger about Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine despite concerns from neighboring countries and the international community,” said Yoo Jin-ryong, a South Korean spokesman.
The most likely reason why Shinzo Abe could have decided to visit this shrine is to appeal to his base. Shinzo Abe draws most of his support from the hawkish conservatives of Japan. Over the last year, Abe spent a lot of political capital to implement various economic reforms. So, this is an act of appealing to his base. The following video of Pacific research expert on CNN breaks down Abe’s motives in greater detail.
Shinzo Abe also has also declared to reform Japan’s pacifist constitution. After its loss in World War 2, Japan had its constitution written by the United States, which limits the size of Japan’s military and the portion of the budget the government can allocate to defense spending. In order to increase Japan’s geopolitical sway in the Pacific, Shinzo Abe has promised to scrap the old constitution and write a new one.
As Japan continues to try and flex its muscles, it will be interesting to see what kind of results they achieve and how the rest of the Pacific reacts. Stay tuned for more updates on the Pacific Theater.
“The must unfortunate war[WW2] which I deeply deplore”
-Emperor Hirohito of Japan