Thursday, January 5, 2006

Koizumi blames Beijing and Seoul for bad relations

Norimitsu Onishi of The New York Times, reports that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi "squarely blamed China and South Korea today for worsening relations with Japan, accusing them of interference in Japan's domestic matters":
In a nationally broadcast news conference marking the start of the new year, Mr. Koizumi defended his annual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, the memorial to Japan's war dead, although the visits have frozen Japan's diplomatic relations with its neighbors. The leaders of China and South Korea have refused to meet Mr. Koizumi in protest over the visits to the shrine, which also honors top-ranked war criminals and is considered a symbol of Japanese militarism throughout Asia.

"I can't understand why foreign governments would intervene in a spiritual matter and try to turn it into a diplomatic problem," Mr. Koizumi said, adding that he visited the shrine to pray for peace.

"I've never once closed the door to negotiations with China and South Korea," he added.
For a number of reasons, it's naïve at best (and deceptively calculating at worst) to suggest that paying homage at a place that enshrines the architects and the executors of policies that led to the countless deaths of Chinese and Koreans is NOT within the diplomatic sphere of those countries. Ditto with government-approved textbooks that in the past may have downplayed those actions.

South Korean foreign minister, Ban Ki Moon, responded by saying that Japan's leaders needed a "better understanding of history" and should earn the "trust and respect of other countries."

Although I don't put much stock in surveys like this as anything more than a barometer of volatile feelings last week, the NYT piece talks about deteriorating attitudes toward Chinese and Koreans:
According to a Japanese government survey released at the end of last year, only 32.4 percent of Japanese said they had "friendly feelings" toward China. The figure, down 5.2 percentage points from the previous year, was a record low.

Japanese public opinion also grew less favorable toward South Korea, with 51.1 percent expressing positive sentiments, down 5.6 percentage points from the previous year. Japan's positive feelings toward Korea had increased annually in the previous four years, reflecting improving bilateral ties that took a turn for the worse last year over Yasukuni and other issues.
I don't agree that Yasukuni Shrine visits are as cut-and-dry as Koizumi would have us believe. And certainly in Japan there are many that agree with me. I will finish this post with some questions about Yasukuni I had asked in another forum, and which I had planned to include as a prelude to a post on the shrine, which I visited during my most recent visit to Tōkyō, last fall.
Since the Yasukuni-14 did not die during war (a couple died of natural causes), how is it that they were justified in being enshrined there? Is anybody who fought in war to be enshrined there, even if they died [later, after the war] from lung cancer, getting hit by a bus, or just old age?

Are all executed “war criminals” enshrined there, or is it just these fourteen? Is Hong, a Korean executed after the war for his role in Japanese POW camps, also enshrined there?

If it is natural that these fourteen were to be enshrined there, why did they wait over three decades to enshrine them there? It would seem that their post-war, non-wartime deaths did not necessitate their enshrinement. Was this a deliberate political act, not a religious one?
There's a little more to read at the original comment, but I'd prefer people provide their answers here on this blog.


  1. Wait for Darin to comment. He and Koizumi are of the same mind...

    Thanks for the thing at the bottom. It is a compelling argument.

  2. Darin,

    When it comes to Korea and China, you do tend to make sweeping generalisations. Until you actually get over to Korea or China, you are a victim of the same propoganda you claim is rife in those countries.

  3. There are no politics involved in Yasukuni.

    This is an utterly false statement.

    I'll take the time to fisk your comments later, but this stood out as utterly naive or blatantly deceptive.

  4. Behind all the acts played by the Japanese PM is the support of Mr. Bush. The ties between the two countires are getting ever stronger.
    :one fits the other quite well for respective interests.

    Surely, Koizumi is not the only one to realize, to the heart and soul that America is the only superpower in the world, but I think he's among the few who know that Mr. Bush is the kind of man who acts first, be sorry later. And the Japanese PM knows what he should do to take the advantage of it.

  5. (1) Where have Seoul land Beijing been the last 60 years

    Darin, my gut feeling is that you are a decent guy, but you you seem sometimes say things that are just very uninformed.

    Yasukuni Shrine has been around since the 19th century, but the current controversy revolves around the enshrinement of the Yasukuni-14, which was in 1978, and revealed to the public in 1979.

    Since then three Japanese PMs have visited the shrine: Yasuhiro Nakasone in 1985, Ryutaro Hashimoto in 1996, and Junichiro Koizumi in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005. These visits indeed HAVE been met with considerable protest.

    while every Japanese PM was visiting Yasukuni?

    That statement is true as long as you don't count the majority of PMs who didn't visit Yasukuni since 1979.

    These include Ohira Masayoshi, Takeshita Noboru, Uno Sosuke, Kaifu Toshiki, Miyazawa Kiichi, Hosokawa Morihiro, Hata Tsutomu, Murayama Tomiichi, Obuchi Keizo, and Mori Yoshiro.

    Ten did not visit; three have.

    Also, after the 1979 revelation of the Yasukuni-14 enshrinement, then Emperor Hirohito stopped visiting; ditto for his son Emperor Akihito.

  6. Japan has historically been great at smooth diplomacy, and a generous view of Seoul and Beijing is that it is simply hard to adjust to a "normal" Japan.

    While China pushes the nationalist card to distact her people from the party dictatorship, I think South Korea's problems are worse. "Corea" has a weird Arab-style nationalist complex, and a revisionist style of history.

  7. Darin wrote:
    Japan has historically been great at smooth diplomacy, and a generous view of Seoul and Beijing is that it is simply hard to adjust to a "normal" Japan.

    That would be a generous right-wing view. And many people in Japan find it hard to adjust to the right-wing's view of what is a "normal" Japan.

    Japan cannot become "normal" if it is trying to re-establish a "normal" military while its leaders espouse beliefs that its past atrocities either didn't really happen or are simply misunderstood, while quietly telling each other that "the other guy" (i.e., China and then the United States) forced them into war.

    While China pushes the nationalist card to distact her people from the party dictatorship, I think South Korea's problems are worse. "Corea" has a weird Arab-style nationalist complex,

    Darin, you have too little contact with Korea and regular Koreans, and what little "information" you have seems far too selective, for you to make a statement like that.

    That movie may have a weird-style nationalist complex (though I'm simply taking the critic's word for it, since I haven't seen it), but on what basis do you believe that movie represents the typical viewpoint, especially that Koreans would want the US and Japan to go to war against each other?

    and a revisionist style of history.

    You'd do well not to rely on Ishihara for your history on Korea. Chosŏn requested help from the Qing Dynasty (a normal thing for Korean dynasties in the past), not from Japan. Japan sent troops to Korea because China did, in accordance with the Sino-Japanese Convention of Tientsin of 1885, with which Korea was not a party.

  8. Darin did not wrote "Japan has historically been great at smooth diplomacy, and a generous view of Seoul and Beijing is that it is simply hard to adjust to a "normal" Japan." but in fact Dan did wrote :)

    Whoops! My bad. I was getting South Dakota confused with southern Japan!

    hehe.. I'll respond to your response ... to a response.. in a few min here. :D

    I wait with bated breath.

  9. I think it's about time Koizumi took a stand on this issue. No matter what any world leader does, it's not possible for everyone to be happy.

    A cop-out response. Yes, it's impossible to keep everyone happy, but that's a very different matter from deliberately -- and UNNECESSARILY -- antagonizing the neighbors in a deliberate reversal of past policy, and in a way in which a large segment of your own population disagrees with your actions.

    Korea and China see this as an opportunity to get some sympathy and more free money which they can hide from their people and put in their own pockets.

    Darin, what money is to be gained from doing this? I cannot speak for China, but in Korea what people want is a convincing display that Japan is not interested in remilitarizing and that it understands the massive mistakes of its past. Visits to Yasukuni, whose leaders have enshrined war criminals and who seek to sanitize Japan's past aggressions while blaming others for World War II, undermine that to an incredible degree. There is no money involved in this issue.

    Perhaps you are confusing this with the Comfort Women issue, where an official apology and adequate compensation for the women are being demanded.

    It needs not to happen. Koizumi works for his own people, not Korea's, not China's.

    Well at least half of his own people are against his actions.

    Furthermore, business interests are losing yen because of the bad image Koizumi is pushing forward. Not to mention that it's against the spirit of Japan's own Good Neighbors Policy.

    This is not about what Koizumi as a Japanese leader is doing for the Japanese people. He is doing this for the right wing. He is doing this against the trend of what other prime ministers have done. He is doing something the last two emperors have refused to do since the enshrinement of the Yasukuni-14.

    Having good relations with your neighbors is important, but not more so than sacrificing your own people.

    "Sacrificing your own people"? That's a very melodramatic way of describing something that more than half of the Japanese people don't want and that the Emperor himself won't do.

    Ten of the thirteen PMs since the enshrinement have not visited it. The "sacrifice" is imagined by those who want the PM to pander to the historical revisionist right wing.

    And by the way, trashing Japanese corporations' opportunities in China is not "sacrificing"?

    This recognition of history 'problem' is the biggest joke in the history of time. Japan isn't China, Japan isn't Korea. There is no single history book, there are many.

    Korea has multiple history books. Unfortunately, the leftist Chonkyojo (National Teachers Union) makes a few.

    The history book that people claim whitewashes history is used by less than 1% of all schools, all of the schools that use it are for mentally challenged children.

    This is a separate issue from Yasukuni, one in which the government's actions have more merit.

    Nevertheless, a few points have to be made. First, for long-term planners, the fact that only 1% of the schools use it is irrelevant, because the plan is for it to creep into the schools.

    Second, the book revisionists have had to tone down some of their content and improve other areas BECAUSE of complaints, both inside and outside Japan.

    Third, the complaints were that the revisionist textbooks were not following Japan's own "Good Neighbors Policy" on textbook content. Hardly a case of Korea telling Japan how to write its books.

    Furthermore, if people would consider actually looking at the history book, they would realize that it does not whitewash, it does not say things didn't happen.

    It downplays some things and in the past, major atrocities were omitted. They were included because of the outcry.

    It just doesn't go into the extreme detail that China and Korea do in order to foster hate for their neighbor in their children.

    Darin, if you ever come over here, with an objective outlook I hope, I can show you that what you've been reading/hearing gets overblown. Yes, there are some haters over here. But they're not as many as you seem to think there are.

    And anyways, these books are for middle schoolers. People go to High School, the information is covered in High School.

    I have always thought that this part of the argument has merit. But I am still concerned--and therefore see a need to remain vigilant--about whether the same groups are seeking later to sanitize the high school textbooks as well. I have been to Yasukuni Shrine's Yushukan Museum and I have been exposed to the "new history" they are trying to promote. It is a future danger to a peaceful Northeast Asia.

    Yasukuni has been around since long before WW2. It's not a memorial to killing Koreans. I don't see why people can't understand that.

    Darin, by enshrining fourteen Class-A war criminal architects of the Pacific War, the shrine keepers were poisoning the peaceful, hopeful message of Yasukuni Shrine.

    These fourteen were added to the shrine even though they did not die in war. Seven of them were not even executed (two of them died before trials were completed). Five were sentenced from twenty years to life. All but one died in prison, Kiichiro Hiranuma, who was released in 1951.

    Especially the last one, what justification, other than political motives of saying the war trial tribunal was false persecution, would there be for enshrining men who did NOT die in war?

    It's a memorial to those who died due to wars for their country.

    None of the Yasukuni-14 died in war. Seven of them died of natural causes; one of them was not in prison at all when he died.

    Their enshrinement turned Yasukuni Shrine into a right-wing sham. It is not surprising that since 1979 Emperor Hirohito and then Emperor Akihito would not visit. Nor would ten of the thirteen PMs since then.

    In the Japanese Shinto religion, all dead souls are just that, deal souls. There is no evil, and their is no good for dead souls. Foolish things like that are left on Earth. That is why the 14 A-Class "war criminals" are enshrined their. They do not represent evil, they do not represent good, they are just 14 of the 2.5 million Japanese that died due to war.

    They did not die in war. Seven died for criminal acts; seven died of natural causes.

    People say that the 14 shouldn't be enshrined because they did not die fighting. I used to agree, but upon further reading I learnt that it's not only dying fighting that will get you enshrined, but dying for the cause.

    Darin, seven died of natural causes, six of them in prison. Even giving you as much leeway as possible on this, why is the fourteenth, who died outside of prison of natural causes, enshrined?

    The people that were executed did in a way die fighting, they died at the hand of the enemy. They died because they fought for their country.

    That's a sneaky bit of logic. Are all executed people then enshrined there? Again, are the Korean(s) executed for war crimes then, are they enshrined there? I'm asking, not saying: is General Hong Sa-ik enshrined there?

    And what about the people who were not executed, but sentenced from twenty years to life? Their deaths would have occurred at about the same time regardless of being in prison or not, so how is their death "due to war"?

    What about those who died in custody before America and others had a chance to kill them? They died in custody, they were in custody because they fought for their country.

    That accounts for only two (and there was no guarantee that they would have been sentenced to death). That leaves five who were sentenced to prison, from twenty years to life.

    As it turned out, one of them was released early. Why is he there?

    Japanese soldiers are not the only ones enshrined at Yasukuni. There are many Taiwanese and Korean soldiers as well.

    Frankly, I completely disagree with any Korean attempts to "disenshrine" Koreans enshrined there. The only ones who have such a right to even request that would be the immediate family members, and then, I believe, only if they have direct evidence from the person enshrined that he (or she) would not want to have been enshrined there. Clearly, there are some Koreans who would have been proud at the time of their death to be enshrined there.

    Also, Yasukuni is not limited to only soldiers. Anyone who has every died due to war in the history of time is enshrined in Chinreisha, on the same grounds as the main building of Yasukuni. All Korean and Chinese civilians, all Jews, all Americans, all French, everyone is worshiped as a god when Koizumi goes to pray for peace. I think that is a truly amazing thing.

    A nice story, and a nice sentiment. But that's utterly irrelevant to Yasukuni having been hijacked by Japan's right-wing both as a code and a source for promoting their sanitizing, white-washing agenda.

    Does China have a shrine to pray for the Koreans it killed the many times it invaded?

    I don't know. But even if it does not, that doesn't resolve the Yasukuni problems.

    Does Korea have a shrine to pray for Japanese who died fighting their previous Chinese rulers? Didn't think so.

    Korea does have general "peace"-oriented shrines. There are hundreds of Buddhist temples throughout the country, many with shrines to a number of things, especially peace-related.

  10. Darin wrote:
    I can not answer why the priests of Yasukuni choose not to enshrine the 14 "war criminals" right away, however in response to Was this a deliberate political act I can say simply, "no". Separation of Church and state are a great thing. There are no politics involved in Yasukuni.

    Darin, the decision to include them was likely political. The attempts by the Yasukuni shrinekeepers to block the establishment of a secular memorial to Japan's war dead is also political.

    That's why Koizumi has the right to visit. Because even as a politician, he has the right to practice his own religion.

    Yes, he has the right to do many things. And people have a right to speak out against what is seen as pandering to a dangerous, rising right-wing.

    This is not about his "rights" as a PM or as a citizen; it's about the prudence of his acts as well as about what his acts represent in terms of his ideology and his support of a history-whitewashing and -sanitizing right-wing.

    At least half of Japanese, ten out of the past thirteen PMs, and the Emperor himself, don't agree with this.

    Yasukuni is a problem and it is trying to block what would be a reasonable solution.

    As to why they are enshrined, it is because they did the honorably deed of saying, "Yes, I am responsible for everything" and taking the full responsibility themselves, they suffered for the benefit of the country, they died for the country.

    As I made clear in my previous response, this is utterly false for at least some of the Yasukuni-14.

    They're like 14 Jesus's if you'll allow me to compare it to christianity.

    No, they are not. Jesus told us to "give unto Caesar," whereas these were fourteen Caesars. Jesus died for a message of hope and peace; five of these fourteen died because they were architects of horror, death, and destruction.

    That you would even suggest they are like fourteen Jesuses really shows you've drunk the Kool-Aid, Darin.

    One more thing... sorry...
    Regardless of who's right and who's wrong in this issue, there is a problem with the relations between Japan and Korea, as well as China and Japan. These problems need to be worked out.

    Darin, under Obuchi and Kim Daejung, they were being worked out. Roh and Koizumi have chosen to derail that. Koizumi is significantly to blame for this. It is a tragedy because it may send the two nations down the wrong path, and for what?

    Japan says, "yes, there is a problem with our relations), lets talk about it and work it out"

    Annual visits to a place ten of his twelve predecessors wouldn't go to, and where his own Emperor won't go to, is not saying "let's talk about it and work it out."

    but the two across the Sea of Japan wont talk about it. They're just going to piss and moan until they get what they want. They're like babies.

    And saying, "I'm the PM! I'll do whatever I want!" is juvenile.

    What is it Korea wants? They want to be comfortable that Japan is not remilitarizing and becoming a threat again. It's not about money, Darin.

    You can't just give a baby what they want whenever they piss themselves, you have to teach it that's not how the world works.

    That's a one-sided, self-serving analogy that doesn't work (it can be applied to any side you don't agree with), so I'm not going to address it any further.

    Japan needs to teach baby China and baby Korea how to be a grown up nation. Japan can not give into babies demands without discussing it like adults.

    Koizumi is going against the grain of the vast majority of his predecessors, a majority of his own people, and his emperor. He is the one who needs to learn to act like a responsible adult.

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. What is it Korea wants? They want to be comfortable that Japan is not remilitarizing and becoming a threat again. It's not about money, Darin.

    Extremist demands like this show how out-of-touch Korean foreign policy is.

    In a neighborhood that contains a stalinist dictatorship (DPRK), an authoritarian party dictatorship (PRC), a kleptocracy (Russia), South Korea is worried about an industrialized democracy?

  13. What is it Korea wants? They want to be comfortable that Japan is not remilitarizing and becoming a threat again. It's not about money, Darin.

    Extremist demands like this show how out-of-touch Korean foreign policy is.

    Extremist demands? It's just a call for Japan to continue to respect the pacifist constitution (that has made it a good neighbor for the past half century). It's not as if this is not what a majority (?) segment in Japan wants as well.

    In a neighborhood that contains a stalinist dictatorship (DPRK), an authoritarian party dictatorship (PRC), a kleptocracy (Russia), South Korea is worried about an industrialized democracy?

    Who says it's an either-or situation? Korea can be worried about Pyongyang, Beijing, and (I suppose) Moscow, while being concerned about where Tokyo is headed.

    Korea spends upwards of 3% of its GDP (currently $20 billion) in defense against North Korea and, to a lesser degree, China. On the other hand, the stuff against Japan is not on the military but diplomatic level, influencing Tokyo (prior to the end of the Kim Daejung administration) or scolding Tokyo (during the Roh Moohyun administration) about issues where right wing-led rearming might upset the peaceful balance that has existed since the end of the Korean War.

    I don't like the way Roh Moohyun has handled things like Tokto/Takeshima. Neither do I like the way Koizumi has handled this. Both are behaving in a way that is counterproductive to good relations, which could adversely affect both countries in the long run. Kim Daejung and Obuchi had it right.

  14. Yes, demanding that Japan maintain an anti-social foreign policy is extremist.

    Japan's economic investments and rational arms build-up leave her with a surplus of security. The Japanese Self Defense Forces have a lot to offer the world in sea-lane protection and nation-building service. However, Article IX

    Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. 2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

    reduces the moral weight of Japanese contributions to gibberish. Wise foreign policy often includes peaceful and non-peaceful solutions to settling international disputes, particularly between Democracies and retrograde dictatorships. If we are to wisely use the capability of peaceful nations to end wars as we have known them, it is bizarre to prevent Japan from fully participating.

    Worse, the prohibition on armies, navies, and air forces are already untrue, because of the JGSDF, JMSDF, and JASDF. How is it right to have already null articles in a modern constitution?

    It is hardly for Korea to say what the Japanese people do and do not want. Japan is a democracy (a much more stable one than any of its neighbors), and the will of the people is expressed through its institutions.

    If Korea is a peaceable democracy, it makes as little sense for her to be "concerned about where Tokyo is headed" as Belgium should be concerned with the contrivances of London. If, on the other hand, Seoul has long-term desires to ally with a party dictatorship to her west and support a Stalinist dictatorship in her North, then she may one day fall outside the democratic peace.


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