Think tank urges Shinzo Abe to stay away from Yasukuni Shrine

Think tank also chides China for raising tension in islands row with Japan

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 July, 2014, 11:48pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 July, 2014, 11:48pm


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should stay away from a controversial Tokyo war shrine, an international think tank said, as it offered ideas on defusing mounting Sino-Japanese tensions.

In a new report, the International Crisis Group (ICG) warned that Abe's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine last December "triggered a bitter argument as to whether Japan has fully atoned for its second world war aggression, a still vivid sore in the region".

The Brussels-based group also chided China for asserting greater authority over regional airspace, a move that it said "deepened Tokyo's anxiety that Beijing desires both territory and to alter the regional order".

"China should calm anti-Japan rhetoric, delink wartime history from the islands dispute and open senior political channels to Japan," said the group's China analyst, Yanmei Xie, referring to a territorial dispute between both countries in the East China Sea. "Japan should avoid actions and comments suggesting revisionist history views."

The report comes as Sino-Japanese relations have reached their lowest point in years. It also comes weeks ahead of the August 15 anniversary of Japan's 1945 defeat, a date many politicians in Tokyo mark by visiting Yasukuni, where 14 top war criminals are enshrined.

China and South Korea see the shrine as a symbol of what they say is Tokyo's unwillingness to repent for its wartime aggression last century. The US tries to discourage visits.

Abe, who drew condemnation from Seoul and Beijing with his December 26 trip to the shrine, has not indicated whether he plans to make a return visit next month. The conservative prime minister stayed away during a visit by nearly 150 Japanese lawmakers in April.

In its report, ICG warned that both countries should "refrain from escalatory actions" near the Diaoyu Islands, called the Senkakus by Japan.

"China should refrain from chasing Japanese fishing vessels and send no aircraft, including drones, into the airspace above or near the islands," it said, adding that there had been "repeated close calls" as a result of Beijing's willingness to "take risks to keep foreign vessels and aircraft away from its fleets".

"Leadership in both countries needs to set a tone that prioritises diplomacy to calm the troubled waters," it said.

This week the US, India and Japan are set to begin week-long war games in the Pacific.

Warships from the three countries are to begin the joint exercises today, after yesterday's official opening ceremony at the Sasebo naval base in Japan.

Known as the Malabar Exercise, the annual event usually involves India and the US, but Japan's Maritime Self-Defence Force will take part this year, for the third time since 2007.

Japan must atone further for 'comfort women', says Yohei Kono, who gave 1993 apology

Japan has failed to atone sufficiently for its actions in the second world war, said a former foreign minister who wrote a famous 1993 apology over its armed forces' use of sex slaves in wartime.

"They are insufficient," Yohei Kono, 77, said when asked about the apologies expressed to date by his nation's officials. "This is because the people who suffered and have extremely painful memories aren't saying they are sufficient."

Kono, a former senior member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, also criticised moves by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to ease limits on Japan's military and defence industry. He said an election should have been held on Abe's decision to alter the interpretation of the pacifist constitution.

Kono is renowned for a 1993 statement he made as the government's top spokesman apologising for the Japanese military's abuse of women, known as "comfort women", during the war. Then prime minister Tomiichi Murayama made what is regarded as the clearest apology for the war as a whole in 1995.