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Next Japanese Leader Unapologetic Over War Against China

Japan's current Chief Cabinet Secretary and future Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Sep 17, 2006
Japan looks set to get its first prime minister born after World War II in Shinzo Abe, who is breaking precedent with his unapologetic views on the country's imperialist past. Abe, who will turn 52 on September 21, has pledged to rip up reminders of World War II defeat -- particularly the US-imposed constitution which barred Japan from maintaining a military.

The rise of Abe, whose grandfather was jailed but not tried as a war criminal after World War II, comes amid high tension between Japan and neighboring countries linked largely to war memories.

Abe has refused to clearly detail his views on history but has signalled he questions the legitimacy of US-led trials of war criminals and feels Japan should stop apologizing for its past atrocities.

"I was not only born after the war but also after the San Francisco Peace Treaty was signed," Abe said recently, referring to the 1951 treaty that ended the US occupation of Japan.

"In that sense, I believe I can create a new Japan with a new vision," he said.

Abe, the right-hand man of popular outgoing Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, is almost certain to win the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's presidential election on Wednesday, which will secure Japan's premiership.

He is expected to be given an initial honeymoon with China and South Korea, which have sent signals they want to repair relations with Asia's largest economy.

News reports say Abe has already begun informal contacts to meet with Chinese and South Korean leaders in November at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vietnam.

The two countries have refused to meet with Koizumi due to his annual visits to the Yasukuni shrine, which honors 2.5 million war dead and, controversially, 14 top war criminals from World War II.

But unlike Abe, Koizumi has repeatedly apologized for the past and said he accepted the Allied trials which condemned Japanese war leaders.

Abe has visited the Yasukuni shrine in the past but refused to say if he would go as premier or to confirm accounts he went secretly in April.

"Mr. Abe is unique in the way that he has questioned the norms of post-war democracy in Japan," said Hidekazu Kawai, professor emeritus of Gakushuin University.

Abe, who has been vague on much of his agenda, has vowed to put a priority on revising the constitution to allow Japan to have a military in name -- a position shared by Koizumi and much of the public.

But Abe has gone further and rejected generally accepted views on the 1972 Joint Communique that normalized relations with China, implying he disagreed with Allied trials of war criminals.

"We no longer live in the era where we are bound by a preconceived notion that we must live by decisions made in the old era," Abe said in a public debate.

Abe's views -- and his refusal to discuss them indepth -- have infuriated Japanese liberals, who say the country must continue to show remorse for the suffering it caused.

"At the root of Abe's idea must be his outlook on history and denial that World War II was a war of aggression," the Asahi Shimbun said in an editorial.

"There is no way a prime minister who cannot speak his view on history about the biggest war of the 20th century can be accepted by the world," said the liberal daily, which has sparred with Abe in the past.

Because Abe came from a political dynasty, his views were more conservative than those of many ordinary Japanese, said Hidenori Ijiri, a professor at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.

Abe is the son of former foreign minister Shintaro Abe and the grandson of Nobusuke Kishi, a wartime cabinet member who narrowly escaped the gallows and went on to become a post-war prime minister.

By contrast, Koizumi's controversial visits to the Yasukuni war shrine have been widely seen as a political decision to please his party base and a sign of his stubbornness -- not a signal of a revisionist ideology.

"Some people in the public say it is somewhat scary to think what he will do," Ijiri said of Abe's hawkish ideology but vague agenda.

"Mr. Abe is much more conservative than Mr. Koizumi, but the problem is no one knows what his policies will be like," he said.

China Tells Japan To Make Wise Decision
Beijing (AFP) Sep 15 - Mending rocky China-Japan ties will require Japan's next leader to make "wise political decisions," state media on Friday quoted a senior Chinese official saying. "We hope Japan will work together with China to get relations back on track. The key is that the future Japanese leaders make wise political decisions," State Councilor, or cabinet member, Tang Jiaxuan was quoted by Xinhua news agency saying.

Tang was speaking Thursday to Masao Kimiwada, the president of Japan's TV Asahi, who was visiting China.

Japan's ties with China have deteriorated in recent years in part over Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to a war shrine, which is seen by Asian countries as a symbol of Japan's militarist past.

The Yasukuni shrine honors Japan's war dead, including 14 class A criminals from World War II.

Koizumi's latest visit to the Tokyo shrine on August 15, the anniversary of his country's World War II surrender, further damaged relations.

Koizumi is set to step down in September but his most likely successor, Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, has defended Koizumi's shrine visits and refused to say whether he would also visit as prime minister.

Tang, a former foreign minister, also reiterated Beijing's stance that sound ties would be based on the handling of history and the Taiwan issue.

"The most important thing is that Japan should correctly view and handle the issue of history and refrain from offending the Chinese people," Tang was quoted saying.

Mitsuhiro Miyakoshi, a junior Japanese cabinet member, made a rare visit to Taiwan last month, meeting with Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian.

This prompted criticism from China, which considers Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification with the mainland.

Japan stressed, however, that there was no change in its policy of recognizing Beijing as the legitimate government of China.

Japan ruled Taiwan as a colony from 1895 to 1945 and occupied parts of China from 1931 to 1945.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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