So much for Abe's reconciliation policy


Remember all that talk just a few months back about how Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, unlike former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, was embarked on a policy of reconciliation with China?
Well, you can forget that now. Indeed, you should have forgotten it then. Even before visiting Beijing in October in his alleged bid for improved relations, Abe was embarked on policies that should have done far more to antagonize Beijing than Koizumi's heavily criticized visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine.
In his book published last year, "To be a Beautiful Country," Abe calls for a Japan-India-Australia alliance in Asia. Allegedly based on shared values (Indian castes, Japanese gangsters and Australian beer drinkers?). The target of that unlikely grouping is clearly China. And if this is not enough, he and the people around him talk openly about the Japan-U.S. alliance as another weapon to oppose China.
Defense and diplomatic officials from Japan and the United States will soon begin examining various scenarios for a confrontation with China over Taiwan. Tokyo still lobbies the Europeans to continue their ban on arms sales to China. A key aim of Abe's recent visit to Europe was to forge closer ties with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which increasingly seeks to be a U.S. ally in Asia. Yet now that Abe is prime minister, Beijing says it plans to revive the top-level exchanges of visits that were denied during the Koizumi era because of those Yasukuni visits.
In Japanese it is called "fumi-e." It is the demand for a complete concession on one particular issue as a condition for any movement in other areas. In the past Beijing succeeded greatly with its demand for a complete break in relations with Taiwan as the prerequisite for any nation, including Japan, wanting to have normal relations with China. Toward Japan today, it seems to have wanted to use the Yasukuni issue for the same fumi-e role.
It was a curious choice. For many Japanese, and not just the ultraright, Beijing's view of Yasukuni visits as a proof of Japan's militaristic intent can be debated. Much depends on the question of Yasukuni's alleged enshrinement of convicted class-A war criminals. But this in turn depends on a number of other delicate questions -- whether the convictions handed down by postwar Tokyo war-crimes tribunals were correct, whether the tribunals were justified in the first place and even whether Japan's decisions to attack its various neighbors were, by the standards of the day, war crimes to begin with.
To many Japanese, Beijing's choice of Yasukuni visits as a kind of fumi-e smacks somewhat of unfair intervention in Japan's domestic affairs. True, the main reason for that choice was Beijing's rather strained efforts to absolve the Japanese people of blame for wartime atrocities, to pin the blame entirely on those class-A war criminals. In other words, it was trying to do Japan a favor, which, incidentally, Japan did not deserve. Even so, if Beijing had not been so single-minded in deciding where war guilt lay, Yasukuni would have been less of a problem.
But the main problem for Beijing lies elsewhere. For in having seemingly persuaded Abe to fumi-e over Yasukuni, it is now obliged to accept his other policies, most of which are far more inimical to China's interests than Yasukuni visits.
Whether it is on education, textbook revision, the emperor system, relations with Taiwan or any of the other touchstone ideological issues facing Japan, Abe belongs to the very far right on his ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
A key tenet of this far right is that Japan is destined to confront China in Asia. Abe has surrounded himself with defense and foreign-policy advisers who make no secret of their hostility to China. Among them is former diplomat and prominent rightwing ideologue Hisahiko Okazaki, who is quoted by Time Asia as saying: "The balance of power will be between the U.S.-Japan alliance and China. China has to deal with this reality. We have to be prepared for war." Is Beijing really doing itself a favor by seeming to want to accept the presence and attitudes of these people?
The other leg in the Abe foreign policy that should be worrying Beijing a lot more is Tokyo's determination to confront North Korea by all means. In the six-party talks aimed to halt North Korea's nuclear and missile development, Japan has consistently sided with the U.S. hawkish positions that in effect justify North Korea's nuclear and missile developments. This is then used to justify a significant upgrading in Japan's military spending and Japan-U.S. military cooperation.
The way the Abe camp has heavily exploited the abductee issue to gain public support for its anti-Pyongyang policies is part of the same picture.
Abe and his rightwing supporters moved quickly to deny Koizumi's September 2002 triumph in having five former abductees freed from North Korea; it began to insist that Pyongyang had to liberate many more alleged abductees, including those Pyongyang insists do not exist or are dead. Koizumi had long realized that direct talks, not confrontation, were needed to resolve these questions. The Abe line is to refuse any such talks outright. Meanwhile, nonresolution of the issues is used as a key justification for Japan's anti-Pyongyang hardline military and other policies.
The extraordinary pomp and ceremony associated with the recent upgrading of the former Defense Agency to Defense Ministry, the growing influence of the military in policymaking, Abe's determination to gain permanent legal approval for use of the Japanese military in any part of the world, the emergence of a corrupt military-industrial complex, the crude attempts to manipulate public opinion over North Korea -- all these things say volumes about Japan's current leadership.
These are people who are in love with the military and its trappings, and are determined to find the enemies needed to keep the military employed. To me, that sounds a lot more worrying than whether a Japanese leader -- out of conviction, nostalgia or plain bloody-mindedness -- decides he wants to visit a Tokyo shrine.

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A級戦犯を祀っているからというのがそのこだわりの大きな理由だ。だがこの問題の底には、他のいくつかのデリケートな問題 戦犯を裁いた東京裁判の判決が正しかったのか、そもそもあの法廷自体が正当化できるのか、さらには日本が近隣のアジア諸国を攻撃したことさえ当時の基準に基づいて戦争犯罪といえるのか、というような問題 が横たわっている。
しかし、中国にとって主要な問題は、他所にある。というのは、一見靖国をめぐる踏み絵に妥協したかに見える安倍を受け入れることによって、中国はいま、彼の他の政策 その大半が靖国参拝よりもはるかに中国の利益に有害な政策
20029月に5人の被拉致者を北朝鮮から解放させた小泉の成功を否定する動きに出ている: 彼らがもっと多くいると主張している被拉致者(北朝鮮が存在しないあるいはすでに死亡したと説明している人も含めて)、を解放しなければならないといい始めた。この問題の解決には対決ではなく直接交渉が必要だと、小泉は早くから覚っていた。安倍路線は、こういうアプローチははなから拒絶する。その一方、この問題が解決しないこと自体を、反北朝鮮的、強硬路線的な方向へ、日本の軍事、その他の政策を推し進める口実に利用する。