[REPORTER'S DIARY]Fooled by a Japanese Plot?

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[REPORTER'S DIARY]Fooled by a Japanese Plot?

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi paid a visit to the Yasukuni Shrine to Japan's war dead on Monday, giving up his originally scheduled plan to visit on Wednesday, the 56th anniversary of Japan's surrender that ended World War II.

Many Japanese people who worried that relations between Korea and Japan and between China and Japan would become worsened if Mr. Koizumi paid visit to the shrine on Wednesday felt relieved. On the other hand, Japanese rightists regretted the change. For his part, Mr. Koizumi might have felt less than full satisfaction since he has been saying openly that he would pay an official visit.

But a majority of Japanese believed that Mr. Koizumi gained more than he lost.

Mr. Koizumi was the second Japanese prime minister to visit the shrine; former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone was the first, in 1985. Mr. Koizumi is the first prime minister to pay homage to the shrine in connection with the anniversary of the surrender.

Although he visited the shrine on Aug. 13 instead of the day of surrender, he left a wreath decorated with his official title of prime minister of Japan and bowed his head to the war dead, demonstrating that his visit was an official one.

Despite whatever mixed emotions he may have had about not visiting on Aug. 15, by following through with his visit, he presented a gift to the Japanese right wing - the first since Mr. Nakasone gave them that pleasure 16 years ago. Since April, we have seen Mr. Koizumi's exquisite strategy for negotiating a visit to the shrine under some circumstances, despite the stir he raised by proposing it.

As if offering an unreasonably low price when buying something and yielding in price little by little, Mr. Koizumi ended up with a bargain price, even though it was a bit more than his first offer.

Mr. Koizumi promised to visit the Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15 if he won the April election for leadership of the Liberal Democratic Party. When he made that statement, the nub of the problem was the visit to the shrine itself, not the date.

As he continued to persist in his plans for the visit, the heart of the problem was subtly changed to the date of the visit. Komeito, an opposition party that protested against the visit by the prime minister, yielded, on the condition that the visit not be on Aug. 15. China initially demanded that Mr. Koizumi should pay only a personal visit, but also accepted a Japanese compromise proposal in which the visit would not be on Aug.15.

Because of this developing feeling that a visit on any day other than the anniversary would be acceptable. Mr. Koizumi visited the shrine on Monday, pretending that he lost his fight to visit on the anniversary, and the Japanese considered the matter closed.

We suspect that the situation developed according to a scenario which was set up in advance. If that is the case, the problem is now more serious. A precedent for future visits has been set.

We should remember that what is important is not the date that he pays a visit to the shrine, but the visit itself.

The writer is Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Oh Day-young

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