Japan’s Abe continues to take nationalist steps

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Japan’s Abe continues to take nationalist steps

Despite mounting criticism over his controversial visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the country’s ruling party have made no moves to downplay nationalist actions.

Before departing yesterday on an official diplomatic trip to Africa, Abe encountered reporters at a local airport.

When asked what he thought about a recent comment made by former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, who said it was not necessary for Abe to repeat his visit to the shrine, the politician replied, “I don’t want to tell you whether I would pay respects at the Yasukuni Shrine [again] or not in the future.”

When asked if he would build a new facility to replace the controversial shrine, which pays tribute to 14 Class-A war criminals, Abe said, “We should first ask the bereaved families [of those honored at the shrine].”

Abe will make a brief stop in Oman before heading to the Ivory Coast, Mozambique and Ethiopia, part of Japan’s efforts to boost its global image.

On Wednesday, Abe also stated in an interview with Fuji TV that he “will complete the roles and responsibilities I must do [as prime minister] no matter how much I am criticized.”

“It is wrong to stop [visiting the shrine] just because of others’ criticism,” he added.

Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) recently revealed a draft of its 2014 party rules that will be officially adopted on Jan. 19.

The new rules add a nationalist clause that states, “We should increase our respect and worship for the people who paved the way for the foundation of the nation through succeeding the visits to the Yasukuni Shrine.”

The new regulations also drop a pacifist clause that was included in the previous version, which stated, “We will strongly maintain our will to keep the vow to never start a war and the principles of a pacifist country.”

Currently, there is no political superpower in Japan capable of curbing nationalist acts by Abe. Some expected that the New Komeito Party - the ruling coalition founded by members of a Buddhist organization - would rein in Abe’s moves, though so far it appears unable.

On Jan. 2, Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of the New Komeito, publicly said that the Abe administration should “listen to the international community’s voice.”

Five days later, Yoshihisa Inoue, another party leader, said that the prime minister should “improve relations with neighboring nations.”

However, their arguments rarely faze the conservative administration.

In April, Abe is preparing to amend the interpretation of the Constitution to enable Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense.

BY SEO SEUNG-WOOK and KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]
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