[EDITORIALS]Koizumi and the Shrine Visit

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[EDITORIALS]Koizumi and the Shrine Visit

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is said to be seriously debating whether to visit, as planned, the Yasukuni shrine on Aug. 15 in commemoration of the end of World War II. He is said to be deliberating whether to stick to the visit on the planned date or to visit on a date other than Aug. 15. We do not think there is any reason to mull over such a minor issue. The crux of the problem lies not on the timing of the visit but the visit itself.

Mr. Koizumi should reject visiting the shrine entirely. That would be a wise choice not only for Mr. Koizumi as a politician but also for Japan, which is at a crossroads and needs to devise a new future for the country. He should heed the advice of Professor Joseph Nye of Harvard University, who noted that if the relationship between Japan and its neighboring countries is exacerbated because of its history, Japan's forte, which lies in its "soft power" would also weaken. He said it would be a great loss for Japan for the prime minister to visit the Yasukuni shrine where class A war criminals are buried with the war dead.

It may be difficult for Mr. Koizumi to give up the visit altogether, because the official visit to the Shinto shrine was a pledge made publicly. Short-term political damage is also likely because abandoning the visit could be interpreted as his abandoning of convictions to foreign pressure. But opposition to the visit expressed by China or Korea, who are direct victims of Japan's militarism, is neither interference in domestic affairs nor unreasonable pressure. The leader that Japan now needs is not one with mass popularity but one who thinks about the future of his country. We are making these recommendations because we believe there is such potential in Mr. Koizumi more than in anyone else.

German leaders since the end of World War II have avoided any action that would have others suspect the truthfulness of repentance for the atrocities committed during the war. Japan is contemplating the issuance of statements that take into consideration its neighboring countries or perhaps sending delegations to explain the situation after the visit to the shrine. But all such efforts would be futile. What Mr. Koizumi should do is to abandon his plan for a visit to the shrine and confidently, without apology, explain the reasons to the Japanese people.
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