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2013年8月22日 (木)

社説:靖国参拝 首相は見送り継続を

August 16, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: PM must steer clear of Yasukuni Shrine
社説:靖国参拝 首相は見送り継続を

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe refrained from visiting Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, where Class A war criminals are enshrined along with Japan's war dead, on the Aug. 15 war-end anniversary. Instead, in his role as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Abe contributed money to the shrine through the purchase of a branch of the sacred sakaki tree.

Visits to the shrine by the prime minister and Cabinet members can become major diplomatic stumbling blocks in Japan's relation with its Asian neighbors. As such, we commend Abe's decision to take the broad view and abandon visiting the controversial shrine on Aug. 15 this year.

The money for the sakaki branch was sent by an LDP legislator and special assistant to the party president on behalf of "Shinzo Abe, president of the Liberal Democratic Party." Since Abe used his own money to purchase the branch from the shrine, the donation will not stir controversy over whether it constitutes a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.
玉串料は私費で、自民党総裁特別補佐の国会議員が代理で納め、「自民党総裁 安倍晋三」と記帳したという。私費であれば政教分離上の問題は生じない。

Abe made the donation out of apparent consideration for his conservative backers. These supporters are holding out hope the prime minister will visit Yasukuni Shrine in his official capacity, as Abe has stated that failing to visit during his previous one-year term in office in 2006-07 was "a matter of the greatest regret." We share their sense of gratitude and respect toward the war dead.

Many years have passed since visits by the prime minister and Cabinet members to Yasukuni became major diplomatic issues. Such visits have drawn fire from not only China and South Korea, victims of Japanese aggression and colonial rule, but United States officials have also expressed grave concerns over the potential for aggravating Tokyo's already strained ties with Beijing and Seoul.

Japan's postwar history began when the San Francisco Peace Treaty -- under which Japan accepted the results of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials in which Class A war criminals were sentenced to death -- came into force in 1952. In the eyes of China, visits by the prime minister to Yasukuni Shrine, where Class A war criminals are enshrined, would represent Japan's justification of its wartime actions. The U.S. could view such visits as a challenge to the San Francisco peace framework that was created on the initiative of Washington.

Yasukuni has become a highly complicated diplomatic problem as successive Japanese administrations failed to do anything to deal with the matter. As such, the government should exercise prudence in addressing the issue. In particular, Japan-China diplomatic relations are already deadlocked because of an intensifying dispute over sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, and there is no prospect that a bilateral summit meeting will be held in the foreseeable future. Japan's relations with South Korea have also deteriorated to new lows over the interpretation of history, although the two countries share many of the same social and political values. In this sense, it is only natural that Prime Minister Abe abandoned visiting the shrine this summer.

The question is whether the prime minister will continue to forgo visiting the shrine. He will need to decide whether to pay a visit to the shrine during its autumn and spring festivals, as well as on the war-end anniversary on Aug. 15, 2014. He should make a clear decision if he hopes to stay in power for a long period.

Various measures to address the issue have been proposed. One such plan calls for separating the Class A war criminals from the war dead enshrined at Yasukuni, an idea that has been discussed since the government of Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone in the 1980s. There are testimonials stating that Emperor Hirohito, posthumously named Emperor Showa, eventually refrained from visiting Yasukuni because Class A war criminals were enshrined there. Some conservatives support the idea of separating such war criminals. During the tenure of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, a plan to build a non-religious cenotaph for the war dead was considered.

What is the Yasukuni issue about in the first place? How did the enshrinement of Class A war criminals emerge as a point of contention between Japan and its Asian neighbors? Is there any solution to the problem? It is a good idea to set up a panel of experts to consider these matters, and the prime minister should refrain from visiting the shrine until after that panel proposes solutions.

China and South Korea should also watch over the Abe government's response to the issue from a long-term perspective. Japan and these neighbors should avoid intensifying their conflicts with narrow-minded nationalism.

毎日新聞 2013年08月16日 02時31分


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