The least Abe can doSome members of the Shinzo Abe cabinet are expected to visit the Yasukuni Shrine to pay respects to the war dead on Thursday, which is the anniversary of the end of World War II. In addition to Administrative Reform Minister Tomomi Inada and Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Yoshitaka Shindo, Keiji Furuya, state minister in charge of the abduction issue, has hinted about his intention to go along.
Prime Minister Abe said that it is free for each individual minister to decide whether he or she visits the shrine because it is “a matter of the heart.” But that’s nothing but irresponsible and cowardly sophistry. As the prime minister in charge of the country’s cabinet, Abe should not treat the issue as if it were someone else’s business. He should take into account the meaning and aftermath of their visits to the shrine.
No matter how hard you try to justify it on religious grounds, it doesn’t change the simple fact that Yasukuni Shrine is the symbol of Japan’s militarism. Before boarding their fighter planes for kamikaze attacks, the Japanese suicide pilots said to each other, “Let’s meet at Yasukuni.”
Furthermore, 14 Class-A war criminals from World War II are enshrined there. If they had the slightest consideration for the victims of Japan’s past military aggression, the ministers would not have planned the provocative act of visiting the shrine on Aug. 15. Instead of making the visit, the Abe administration should issue a statement that meaningfully reflects on the country’s wrongful past and issue an apology.
Abe must think seriously about why so many sensible Japanese people held a candlelight protest over the weekend against the Japanese politicians’ plan to visit Yasukuni. The protesters criticized the shrine as an ideological mechanism that praises battlefield deaths and breeds the soldiers who will die in the next war. Abe should really think about this criticism.
Abe also has to question whether his intention to slyly change the interpretation of the country’s Peace Constitution and practice the right to collective self-defense is actually linked to his intention to let his cabinet ministers visit the shrine. Abe said he himself has no plans to visit Yasukuni on Thursday, but that’s not enough. He must strongly discourage all cabinet ministers from making the visits. That’s the least he can do in order to respect history and Japan’s relationships with its neighbors. We urge Abe to make a wise decision.