intense interview with PM Abe @ Foreign Affairs

It always seems to cause problems when you talk about history, so why not just avoid it? And let me ask a related question: In order to put these issues aside, can you promise that as prime minister, you will not visit Yasukuni Shrine in either your official or your private capacity?

I never raised the issue of history myself. During [recent] deliberations in the Diet, I faced questions from other members, and I had to answer them. When doing so, I kept saying that the issue is one for historians, since otherwise you could politicize it or turn it into a diplomatic issue.

About the Yasukuni Shrine, let me humbly urge you to think about your own place to pay homage to the war dead, Arlington National Cemetery, in the United States. The presidents of the United States go there, and as Japan’s prime minister, I have visited. Professor Kevin Doak of Georgetown University points out that visiting the cemetery does not mean endorsing slavery, even though Confederate soldiers are buried there. I am of a view that we can make a similar argument about Yasukuni, which enshrines the souls of those who lost their lives in the service of their country.

But with all due respect, there are 13 Class A war criminals buried at Yasukuni, which is why it makes China and South Korea crazy when Japanese prime ministers go there. Wouldn’t it be easier just to promise not to go?

I think it’s quite natural for a Japanese leader to offer prayer for those who sacrificed their lives for their country, and I think this is no different from what other world leaders do.

"~Crazy!~"

The question is whether Mr Abe can keep the government on-message. In picking his 19-member cabinet he has given reason to doubt that, in the long run, he even wants to. Consider the following. Fourteen in the cabinet belong to the League for Going to Worship Together at Yasukuni, a controversial Tokyo shrine that honours leaders executed for war crimes. Thirteen support Nihon Kaigi, a nationalist think-tank that advocates a return to “traditional values” and rejects Japan’s “apology diplomacy” for its wartime misdeeds. Nine belong to a parliamentary association that wants the teaching of history in schools to give a better gloss to Japan’s militarist era. They deny most of Japan’s wartime atrocities.

The line-up includes Hakubun Shimomura, the new education minister, who wants to rescind not just the landmark 1995 “Murayama statement”, expressing remorse to Asia for Japan’s atrocities, but even annul the verdicts of the war-crimes trials in Tokyo in 1946-48. Mr Abe has made no secret of his wish to revise three of the country’s basic modern charters: the American-imposed constitution of 1946, committing Japan to pacifism; the education law, which Mr Abe thinks undervalues patriotism; and the security treaty with the United States, under which Japan plays a junior role. To describe the new government as “conservative” hardly captures its true character. This is a cabinet of radical nationalists.

http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21569046-shinzo-abes-appointment-scarily-right-wing-cabinet-bodes-ill-region-back-future

I wonder if it’s less about “denying” and more about “that shit was seventy fucking years ago and everyone who did it is dead, can we PLEASE move on.”