Monday, October 24, 2005

Roh says "cut it out" to Koizumi's Yasukuni visits

Koizumi leaves the Yasukuni Shrine grounds after his recent visit.

Kyodo News Agency reports that, according to the Hankook Ilbo, Roh Moohyun has decided he will not hold a summit meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi unless the Japanese leader apologizes for his visit to Tokyo's war-related Yasukuni Shrine and pledges not to do so again. Quoting a "senior South Korean official":
(We will) not hold a summit (with Japan) while Prime Minister Koizumi is in office unless the Japanese government take measures to assuage uncomfortable feelings of neighboring countries like (South) Korea and China.

Japanese leaders should realize they should pay the price if they conduct irresponsible behavior.
Koizumi said he will step down in September 2006, when his tenure as president of Japan's dominant Liberal Democratic Party expires, but that is an awfully long time for two should-be allies to not be on direct speaking terms. The two are supposed to meet in December.

Japanese citizens protest Koizumi's recent visit.

To be fair, though, it's not just South Koreans and their neighbors complaining about this; many Japanese have also criticized Koizumi for his October 17 visit, including some in his own cabinet. Yoshitaka Murata, state minister in charge of disaster management, said this at his semiannual press conference last week:

I've been telling him [Koizumi] he'd better not visit Yasukuni Shrine. So now I regret he did.
Construction and Transport Minister Kazuo Kitagawa of coalition partner New Komeito was also blunt:

It was very regrettable. I fear it's had a negative impact not only on the important relationship with China and South Korea, but that it could also hinder stabilization and development in the whole of East Asia.
I have more thoughts on the Yasukuni issue, but I will save them until I get them in publishable form. Suffice it to say for now that the Japanese do need and deserve (as any country would) a place where their leaders can honor their war dead, but Yasukuni Shrine is no longer a suitable place for such visits.

In the meantime, here's a link to what Japanese "people on the street" are thinking. And by the way, I think the Korean guy at the bottom is himself spouting an inaccurate nationalistic view (there have been apologies and introspection, even if they are not shared by the right-wing or they are undermined by Japanese nationalists); Japanese historical amnesia doesn't justify Korean historical amnesia.

President Roh reportedly will meet with Koizumi after all, at the upcoming APEC forum in Pusan. This is probably a wise move. While I agree that Koizumi should stop these visits, there are other much more important reasons why Seoul and Tokyo should be moving toward each other, not away.

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