National Assembly to condemn Abe in a vote

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National Assembly to condemn Abe in a vote

The National Assembly took steps yesterday to adopt a resolution to condemn Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for visiting a contentious war shrine.

Both the leadership of the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic Party vowed to adopt the resolution, and it is expected to be approved at a main session scheduled Monday.

“The National Assembly must adopt the resolution to condemn Abe and denounce his foolish act toward the peace-loving people of Northeast Asia,” said Representative Choi Kyung-hwan, the Saenuri Party floor leader. “Abe must face the fact that he has more to lose with his anachronic conservative shift and revival of militarism than to gain.”

Representative Jun Byung-hun, floor leader of the Democratic Party, said he will ask the legislature to adopt the resolution to condemn Abe at Monday’s plenary session.

“The Japanese government must apologize to the world community,” he said, “and promise that it will never happen again.”

DP Chairman Kim Han-gill said the Korean government must send the Abe administration the message, “Japan is nothing more than a war criminal to us.”

Abe paid his respects at Yasukuni Shrine, which honors the country’s war dead, on Thursday. Because it honors convicted Class-A war criminals from World War II, the shrine is regarded as a symbol of Japan’s militarism and the oppression and invasion of its neighbors.

A lawmaker from the Democratic Party yesterday disclosed figures about the number of Japanese politicians and government members who visited the shrine this year.

According to Representative In Jae-keun, 330 out of 722 Japanese lawmakers visited Yasukuni Shrine this year, including several cabinet members. Of the 258 lawmakers who are members of the Korea-Japan Parliamentarians’ League, 114 paid their respect at the shrine, she said.

Speculation grew over additional reactions by the Korean government.

Political insiders said President Park Geun-hye could include a stern message toward Japan in her New Year’s address. She refused a summit proposal from Abe, stressing that a change in Japan’s attitude is a precondition.

Most major Japanese media criticized Abe’s decision in their Friday editions. The Sankei Shimbun, a right-wing newspaper, was an exception, but mainstream newspapers including the Yomiuri, Asahi, Nihon Keizai and Mainichi condemned Abe.

In an editorial, the Asahi Shimbun said the prime minister could not justify his visit with any excuse. The newspaper said it was absurd for Abe to claim to be in favor of friendship with Korea and China when he angers them in this way.

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun expressed concerns that Abe’s act could fuel undesirable nationalism. It also said the shrine visit could have an effect on the planned visit to Japan by U.S. President Barack Obama next April.

Abe’s visit upset the United States, its key ally. The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo had expressed its disappointment already on Thursday. “Between allies, you don’t use the word, ‘disappointment,’?” a diplomatic source in Washington told the JoongAng Ilbo. “It reflects Washington’s shock.”

The last visit by a prime minister was in 2006 by Junichiro Koizumi, and no official statement came from the U.S.

“The United States is seriously angered,” a diplomatic source in Tokyo said. “Complaints are growing that Abe betrayed U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.”

During a visit to Japan earlier this month, Biden tried to dissuade Abe from visiting the shrine and Abe replied that there was nothing to worry about, the source said.

When Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso visited the United States in April and met with Biden, the U.S. vice president made a strong appeal for Tokyo to improve relations with Seoul and Beijing. Aso still visited Yasukuni Shrine shortly after his return home.

BY SER MYO-JA [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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