Japanese Prime Minister Abe visits Yasukuni Shrine
China and other Asian countries protest
San José, CA – On Dec. 26, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid a visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in Japan’s capital, Tokyo. This shrine honors Japanese war deaths and includes 14 of the most prominent Japanese convicted of war crimes during World War II, as well as more than a thousand other Japanese war criminals. The shrine also includes a museum, the Yushukan, which portrays Japan’s war of conquest during World War II as aiming to kick out European colonists and covers over some of the worst war crimes, such as the Rape of Nanjing.
The act was strongly protested by China and South Korea, who both suffered from Japan’s wars and occupation. The 1937 Rape of Nanjing, where Japanese troops raped and killed more than 250,000 Chinese is a fact that Abe has tried to cast doubt on by supporting rewriting Japanese school books to say that this was “open to debate.” The Japanese army also enslaved Korean and Chinese women to be prostitutes for the Japanese military (the so-called ‘comfort women’) during World War II, a fact also denied by Abe.
While Abe had visited the Yasukuni Shrine before, this was his first visit as prime minister (Abe had been prime minister from 2006-2007, but did not visit the shrine during that time). Abe is a longtime nationalist politician who has tried to downplay Japan’s imperial past and atrocities committed by the Japanese occupation forces in China and other countries. By trying to cover up and deny Japan’s past of war and occupation, Abe is laying the basis for Japan to try to restore its former imperial glory at the expense of its neighbors, in particular China and Korea.
Abe supports changing Japan’s constitution to remove its article on peace and has been a long-time supporter of expanding Japan’s military. One of his first acts as prime minister was to increase funding for the military. Abe has also stepped up Japanese military patrols around the Chinese Diaoyu Islands, which Japan has occupied since it defeated China in the 1895 Sino-Japanese War.
Abe has found a partner in the U.S. government, whose military ‘pivot towards Asia’ is also putting it on a collision course with China. The day after visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, Abe announced that U.S. plans for a new military base in Okinawa would move forward. The construction of a new U.S. military base has been strongly opposed by the Okinawan people, whose nation has been the site for most of the U.S. military bases in Japan, and whose people have be subject to rape, murder and other criminal acts by U.S. military personnel.