The policy chief of Japan’s ruling party vowed yesterday to keep paying homage at a controversial shrine, despite anger and diplomatic protests by China and South Korea.
Nearly 170 Japanese lawmakers made a pilgrimage last month to the Yasukuni Shrine, a flashpoint in a bitter dispute between Japan and Asian neighbors that were victims of its 20th century militarism.
For foreign critics, the shrine is a stark reminder of Tokyo’s brutal occupation of the Korean Peninsula and imperialist expansion leading up to World War II. Among the 2.5 million honored there are 14 men convicted of war crimes by a US-led tribunal after Japan’s 1945 surrender.
Sanae Takaichi, who heads the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) policy affairs council, was one of the senior lawmakers who joined last month’s visit and yesterday defended the practice.
“It’s an internal affair [of a nation] how to commemorate the people who sacrificed their lives for the national policy,” Takaichi said on a program on public broadcaster NHK.
China agreed to the principle of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs when Tokyo and Beijing established diplomatic ties in 1972, she said.
Takaichi also voiced doubt about a 1995 landmark statement Japan issued under then-Japanese prime minister Tomiichi Murayama, which acknowledged it followed “a mistaken national policy” and advanced along the road to war.
“There is no doubt that [Japan] hurt the ethnic pride of people in colonized countries and caused them tremendous sufferings,” Takaichi said. “But the Murayama statement mentions ‘a mistaken national policy.’ Then, would it have been best for Japan not to fight [major Western powers] at all and to take the path of becoming a colony amid embargoes?”
“I think no politician in today’s Japan can tell us with confidence what was right in the international situation at that time,” she said.
Takaichi also said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may have different views on history from past Japanese governments that accepted the judgement of the post-war Tokyo tribunal.