Japanese PM Revives Militarist Traditions. “Japan Closely Integrated into US War Preparations against China”
By Peter Symonds
December 27, 2013
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit yesterday to the notorious Yasukuni Shrine to the country’s war dead is another provocative step towards the revival of Japanese militarism that has exacerbated already sharp regional tensions. China and South Korea, which were both subject to Japan’s brutal wartime rule, immediately condemned the visit—the first by an incumbent prime minister since Junichiro Koizumi went to the shrine in 2006.
The Yasukuni Shrine is not simply a war memorial, but a potent symbol of Japanese militarism in the 1930s and 1940s. It symbolically interns many of Japan’s war dead, including 14 “Class A” war criminals convicted by an Allied tribunal. In its incendiary character, Abe’s visit to Yasukuni is comparable to a government leader in Germany deciding to pay homage at the graves of Nazi leaders.
Abe’s visit marked one year since his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) government came to power. He cynically claimed that he went to the shrine to renew “the pledge that Japan must never to wage war again.” But over the past year his government has boosted military spending for the first time in a decade, stoked up tensions with China over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea, and integrated Japan more closely into the US war preparations against China.
Abe’s visit is part of an ongoing campaign to whip up nationalism to counter deeply rooted anti-war sentiment, particularly in the working class. In an essay in Bungei Shunju just before assuming office last December, Abe declared he was in “a fight to free the Japanese nation from the postwar history”—that is, from any acknowledgement of the military’s war crimes. This ideological campaign is bound up with ending the restraints of the country’s post-war constitution to enable Japanese imperialism to wage war in pursuit of its economic and strategic interests.
While the US embassy in Tokyo expressed “disappointment” over Abe’s visit, the Obama administration bears prime responsibility for encouraging the re-emergence of Japanese militarism. During his first term as prime minister in 2006–2007, Abe sought to mend relations with China that had been fraught under his predecessor Koizumi, not least as a result of the latter’s trips to the Yasukuni Shrine. Over the past four years, however, Obama has implemented his “pivot to Asia”, aimed at undermining China diplomatically and encircling it militarily. This has encouraged US allies, especially Japan, to take a more aggressive stance against China.