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2009年8月17日 (月)

社説:国立追悼施設 今度は議論途切らすな

(Mainichi Japan) August 17, 2009
Time to consider a new facility to pay respects to Japan's war dead
社説:国立追悼施設 今度は議論途切らすな

Prime Minster Taro Aso avoided a visit to Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15, the 64th anniversary of the end of World War II, living up to his earlier declaration that he would not make a visit. The Mainichi has consistently opposed prime ministerial visits to the shrine, where Class-A war criminals are enshrined along with Japan's war dead, and we consider Aso's response only natural.

Together with former prime ministers Shinzo Abe and Yasuo Fukuda, Aso is one of three consecutive leaders after former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to have refrained from visiting the shrine while in office, and it appears that a trend of not visiting the shrine has set in. However, this does not provide a solution to the longstanding issue of how respects can be paid to Japan's war dead without producing discomfort among people in Japan and abroad.

Opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) leader Yukio Hatoyama has indicated that if the DPJ takes over the reins of government in the upcoming House of Representatives election and he is elected prime minister, then he will refrain from visiting the shrine and advise his Cabinet to follow suit. He has also suggested that he would consider setting up a national monument to pay respects to the war dead in place of Yasukuni Shrine.

This is by no means a new idea. After Koizumi visited the shrine on Aug. 13, 2001, while serving as prime minister, he raised the issue during informal talks, and a private consulting group of the chief Cabinet secretary considered setting up a separate memorial.

An ensuing report concluded, "In order to show to the world that Japan is actively pursuing peace through its actions, it is necessary for the nation to set up a permanent, national facility with no religious affiliation where people can pay respects and pray for peace."

However, at the time Koizumi stated that even if a new facility were set up, it would not serve as a replacement for Yasukuni Shrine, and he continued his visits. As a result, the idea of establishing a new monument quickly wilted, and the designation of budget funds for a memorial facility that officials had initially considered was put off. Needless to say, Japan's relations with China and South Korea experienced a stormy season during Koizumi's term as prime minister.

It is not only out of consideration for other Asian countries that the Mainichi has remained opposed to prime ministerial visits to Yasukuni Shrine. The heart of the Yasukuni issue is that people who became Class-A war criminals during the International Military Tribunal for the Far East are enshrined there. It recently emerged that Emperor Showa had expressed strong discomfort over the enshrinement of Class-A war criminals at Yasukuni. There are probably also many people among the public who have doubts about the status of Yasukuni Shrine in terms of the possibility of the past war being justified.

Yasukuni Shine officials say that under Shinto doctrine, it would be difficult to separately enshrine Class-A war criminals who have already been enshrined at Yasukuni. At the same time, Aso has proposed altering the status of Yasukuni Shrine from a religious organization to a special corporation, but the proposal has not received support in political circles. It remains a fact that various opinions exist among lawmakers from both Aso's Liberal Democratic Party and the DPJ.

However, the issue of how to create a monument that both members of the Japanese public and non-Japanese can visit without feeling uncomfortable is one that must be solved eventually. Regardless of the outcome of the Lower House election, isn't it time for the political world as a whole to once again consider a new memorial facility, including the current plans to enlarge Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery? This time we cannot let the debate be interrupted.

毎日新聞 2009年8月16日 東京朝刊


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