Yasukuni Blues: Understanding Shinzo Abe's Historical Revisionism

Discussion in 'Indo Pacific & East Asia' started by t_co, Dec 27, 2013.

  1. t_co

    t_co Senior Member Senior Member

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    China Matters: Yasakuni Blues: Understanding Shinzo Abe’s Historical Revisionism

    Myth: Shinzo Abe is a leading member of the team of world and Asian democracies standing up to China in the name of universal values like “freedom of navigation” and to help ensure the shared peace and prosperity of Asia.

    Reality: Shinzo Abe is a revisionist nationalist using friction with China to pursue Japanese national interests, put Japan on the right side of a zero-sum economic equation opposite the PRC, maximize Japan’s independence of action as a regional hegemon, hopefully peacefully, but if not...

    Mission for the Western media: Manage the cognitive dissonance between comforting myth and disturbing reality for the sake of its faithful readers.

    Challenge: Explain away Prime Minister Abe’s Boxing Day visit to the Yasakuni Shrine.

    First of all, please note that Yasakuni is not Japan’s Arlington Cemetery. The role of national repository of Japan’s war dead is filled by the Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery.

    Yasakuni is a right wing revisionist theme park that provides sinecures for politicians of Abe’s LDP party on its board. It's too creepily ultranationalist even for the Japanese emperor himself to visit.

    Jeffrey Kingston of Temple University’s Japan Center provided a nice takedown of the Yasakuni myth back in August 2013 for Bloomberg:



    Abe’s historical revisionism about World War II, as represented by his Yasakuni visit, is not a generous if misguided exercise in greatest generation nostalgia meant to soothe toothless, aging nationalists with a last glimpse of imperial twilight. Historical revisionism has an unmistakable contemporary resonance and drives a current political agenda. For instance, it underpins Abe’s burgeoning security relationships with India and Myanmar, both of whom were unhappy British subjects not at all immune to the decolonization blandishments of Imperial Japan in the 1940s.

    The only foreigner commemorated at Yasakuni (with a stele) is Radha Binod Pal, an Indian jurist and decolonization enthusiast, whose suppressed dissent to the Tokyo war crimes tribunal verdict has become a sacred text for Japanese historical revisionists, and was approvingly cited by Manmohan Singh in his high-profile anti-Chinese bromance with Shinzo Abe. I refer interested readers to my article in Japan Focus, which covers Abe’s celebration of Pal and the anti-colonial (as well as anti-Chinese) foundation of current Indo-Japanese relations in convincing detail.

    As for Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi’s father and national hero Aung San did a lot more than flirt with the role of collaborator with the Japanese occupation of Burma. He was in charge of anti-British guerilla ops on behalf of the Japanese government, served as War Minister in the occupation cabinet, and was personally awarded the Order of the Rising Sun by Emperor Hirohito before he came to his liberal democratic senses (or realized that Japanese rule was headed for collapse) and became leader of the resistance.

    The Japanese presence in Burma is remembered nostalgically by a lot of Japanese and apparently more than a few Burmese locals and sustained a flood of Japanese veteran tourism and government and private aid projects since the 1950s. Japan cultivated a special relationship with Myanmar even during the worst junta years, and Abe has taken advantage of Myanmar’s opening to the West to jump in diplomatically and commercially and work to displace Chinese influence.

    And of course Abe himself came from a long line of conservative politicians, most notoriously on his wife’s side Nobusuke Kishi, who played a key role in the occupation of Manchuko, served in the Tojo cabinet during World War II, and was detained as a candidate for Class A War Criminal status until his release in 1948.

    The most awkward and significant reality of Shinzo Abe’s Yasakuni visit is that the villain at the heart of Japanese historical revisionism is not China; it is the United States.

    The core of Abe’s historical revisionism is not just that the bandit-infested territories of China and Korea demanded Japanese tutelage in the 1930s and 1940s, but also that the Japanese Empire was leading the fight of the oppressed peoples of Asia against British colonialism and American imperialism—in other words, the real war crime of World War II was U.S. aggression against Japan.
    The United States, and its pretensions to moral superiority over Japan, as well as China and Korea’s presumptuous claims to virtuous victimhood, were a target of Abe’s Yasakuni visit.

    As I have pointed out before, the Chinese state media frequently emphasizes the shared PRC-US interest of maintaining the official World War II narrative of “evil Japan”, not only for the transitory Chinese pleasure of guilt-tripping Tokyo, but because the US self-assigned role of Asian lawgiver and restraint on Japanese militarism is one of the main justifications for “pivoting” into Asia instead of just giving Japan enough guns, bombs, and backing to manage the China containment show on its own.

    Remember, Premier Wen Jiabao used his last official trip to Europe to go to Potsdam, of all places, to celebrate the Potsdam Declaration, the 1945 call by the US, Britain, and China for Japan’s unconditional surrender and specifying occupation until Japan had a “peacefully inclined” government.

    This context provides considerable heartburn for purveyors of the “Abe as unwilling warrior” myth that presents Japan’s newly aggressive foreign policy as a reaction to the “China threat” to national security, and for that matter, the rather ridiculous assertion that Abe is a regretful victim being pushed into visiting Yasakuni in order to appease his fireeating right wing base. Abe pretty much is the base.

    On the other hand, it provides considerable support for an understanding of the Abe reality: that Shinzo Abe is deliberately and carefully stirring the China pot in order to exacerbate and highlight the polarization between China and Japan to justify his ongoing reconfiguration of Japan’s regional role into independent local hegemon at the expense of U.S. prestige and power in Asia.

    Abe manufactured a crisis out of the Chinese declaration of its Air Defense Identification Zone; now he exploits and prolongs the furor by sticking a finger in China’s eye with the Yasakuni visit. In other words, instead of trending toward stability (and making things easier for the United States), Abe is escalating, enhancing instability (and making things more difficult for the US). Strange behavior for an ally. Understandable actions for a regional actor impatient to assert its independence vis a vis the US.

    Abe is a man in a hurry. He realizes that the an intersection of LDP hubris-driven corruption and incompetence and an an eventual resurgence of Japan’s other political parties lies somewhere in his future. He is determined to re-establish Japan as a full-fledged regional power before he leaves office. Instability and tensions with China work toward this end, and that’s why he does things like visit Yasakuni.

    This state of affairs is perfectly understood by the PRC government, and Chinese state media has been harping on Abe’s incremental security reforms and his efforts to develop a regional network of Japan-centric alliances, even before he takes the momentous step of revising the pacifist constitution and enabling formal “collective security” treaties that would permit a Japanese military response if an ally, and not Japan itself, were threatened.

    It is also, I think, well understood by the U.S. government, which has been performing an increasingly difficult balancing act as Japan sails off on its own independent regional security policy. For the sake of its own “pivot” agenda, which is built on the idea of China containment, the United States has denied itself the “honest broker” role in a balance of power network and is instead trying to herd cats (and a Japanese panther) to maintain an anti-China picket line.

    As the Japanese government understands (and, I would hope, U.S. diplomats now sincerely regret), the pivot doctrine has fatally circumscribed US ability to push back on Japan (unless Japan does something absolutely crazy illegal and aggressive, which is not Mr. Abe’s MO). Prime Minister Abe knows he can go to Yasakuni and elicit nothing more than anxious squealing from the U.S. State Department.

    Western corporate media outlets, I believe, haven’t gotten the memo since they have totally tongue-kissed, climbed into bed, and had blissful liberal democratic sex with the valorized dream of the world’s democracies led by the United States working hand in glove with Japan to stand up to the PRC’s authoritarian regime. The realization that the new Japanese policy is based on the idea that the Pacific War was a gigantic regional war crime by the United States instead of the first triumph of American democracy over Asian authoritarianism (and the successful template for a certain current US effort against another alien, pushy Asian power whose initials are “PRC”) simply doesn’t seem to sink in.

    The result is utterly gormless reporting (sorry, Reuters) along the lines of :



    Given the conflicted (and self-inflicted) nature of US pivot policy, I expect the big media reporting to continue to hew to the more-sorrow-than-in-anger angle that “For some mysterious reason Abe is going out of his way to irritate PRC jerks and why is he antagonizing South Korea at the same time even though South Korea is a democracy too and since Japan is a democracy they should be buddies oh never mind”, while continuing to ignore the most important reality: that events in Asia are increasingly slipping away from the grasp of the United States and into the hands of Japan—into the hands of Shinzo Abe, who is fundamentally suspicious of U.S. pretensions to leadership and perhaps even questions US regional legitimacy as anything more than a fading power still trying to trade on its legacy of Japanese conquest more than half a century ago.

    Thanks, “pivot to Asia”.

    ------------------------------------

    There have been seven incidents of 'hooliganism' or vandalism against Japanese cars or businesses in Seoul in the past 24 hours. (Source: college friend who works for Korean NIS). Abe is singlehandedly dismantling the US-led security order in East Asia. Fortunately, it looks like the State Department, Treasury, and Commerce are all getting the message and ready to rein Schizo Abe in. Will the Pentagon get on board? Stay tuned.
     
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  3. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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    The rest of Asia has already moved on...

    Japan hasn't killed anybody since WW2. Only the most idiot of idiots will believe that Japan will invade any of its neighbors again. China and South Korea should stop teaching their children to hate Japan.
     
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  4. t_co

    t_co Senior Member Senior Member

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    That isn't relevant to the original argument, however. Abe's visits are not about Japan's current relationship with what you term to be 'the rest of Asia'. They are about Japan's relationship with the United States.

    No Asian leader believes any Asian nation will invade any of its neighbors again. America thinks Japan will drag it into an Asian war against its own interests (sort of like Israel and Saudi Arabia have nearly dragged the US into a war with Syria and Iran).

    Schizo Abe can't deliver on the TPP, can't deliver on structural reform, and can't deliver on helping America's security goals in the Western Pacific. Expect a tete-a-tete between the US and China on how to stonewall this unhelpful individual soon.
     
  5. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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    You're wrong again. It's about "Abe's relationship" with the "Japanese population."


    But America also believes that a line must be drawn against China. And as it is only too conscious of the anxious Asian eyes of "other Asian countries" looking at how it will react on the challenges against China faced by its most powerful Asian partner. Too weak and bye-bye to its alliances/importance in Asia.


    It's too early to tell if Abe has failed in his economic gamble. But there are some early signs: domestic prices going up, stock market booming (investors and traders always bet in anticipation of favorable business performances).
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2013
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  6. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    both China and 2 Koreas have axes to grind. Abe and his likes hav made Japan a perfect grindstone. what can b a better stimulus for buoyant nationalism? Japanese politicians hv kept on adding fuel by chanting "comfort women were volunteers" or "Korea was willing to merge with Japan" and so on. East Asians visibly have a stronger self esteem.

    its Abes who refused to move on.

    Sent from my 5910 using Tapatalk 2
     
  7. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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    I think that issue of comfort women in a murky one, very murky. There could have been scores of those comfort women that were forced but most of them could have been in Japanese comfort stations voluntarily for money and safety. There are certainly a lot of prostitutes now in China and if news are to be believed a lot of them are forced into it (where's the uproar?).
     
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  8. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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    Isn't it cherry picking just to suit the narrative against Japan that China and South Korea are spinning in the heads of their youth? The Japanese Government has already apologised many times for the atrocities committed by their previous government during the war:

     
  9. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    Koreans disagree with u
    [​IMG]
    Comfort women' statues

    South Korean activists unveiled plans Wednesday to put up statues commemorating women forced into wartime sexual slavery by Japan in a number of Asian countries, starting with Singapore. The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery was behind the bronze statue of a young girl with a butterfly settled on her shoulder that was put up in 2011 opposite the Japanese embassy in Seoul.

    Korea Joongang Daily
     
  10. t_co

    t_co Senior Member Senior Member

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    Jan Ruff O'Herne - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Comfort women - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    MOFA: Statement by the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on the result of the study on the issue of "comfort women"

     
  11. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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    I am in no way denying that there were sex slaves during the war. But then again which major war didn't have cases of sexual atrocities? That's the dark side of our humanity. But as I already pointed out Japan has already apologised many times for its transgressions. What more can Korea and China ask for?
     
  12. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    Japanese politicians keep on throwing out flame baits like worshiping Tojo, Yamamoto etc. as "heroes" while sounding apologetic at times. In contrast in Germany Mein Kampf is still banned up to date. Consequently CJK FTA is probably shelved while China and Korea move toward CK FTA without J. Political short-sightedness of Abe at most!



    Sent from my 5910 using Tapatalk 2
     
  13. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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    I don't think Abe or his predecessor Koizumi really intend to glorify Tojo et al by going to Yasukuni. I think like all Asians they only want to pay their respect to the souls of all the people that sacrificed, rightly or wrongly, for Japan. I don't see anything wrong with that. What is wrong is endorsing the evil actions of these men which clearly the Abe or the JApanese government has no intention of doing.

    Secondly, it is obvious that in every country there are idiots. And the lower ranking Japanese politicians that keep on denying this issue are just living up to what they are, idiots. What is important is that the national government of Japan has already formally admitted the participation of their military in this issue, and that they apologised for it (many times). Now, have you seen the same act of contrition on the part of the CCP for the atrocities committed during the 50s and 60s that killed millions of their own countrymen?
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2013
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  14. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    The Japanese Chinese relationship has been historically an interesting one with surges of confrontations and mutual animus so to say.

    'Apparently.with the rise of China, the Japanese have capitalised on the decades of peace under the US' protective security umbrella to rejuvenate itself from the devastation caused by the second World War.

    However, given the emerging geostrategic and geopolitical challenges, far sighted amongst the Japanese politicians have realised that given the challenges to the US, the benign US protection may not be in perpetuity. Hence, such politicians are seeking ways to shed the pacifism that has been thrust on them by the US dictated Constitution and the revulsion towards militarism and horrors thereof caused on the Japanese psyche by the Atom Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Shinzo Abe is merely playing out the game to subtly change Japan to be self sufficient in its security outlook and equip her to be self reliant towards its national territorial integrity and sovereignty.

    There can be no better a mode to national awakening that a subtle revival of Shintoism, which is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the people of Japan,.in the same manner as the Chinese use the 100 years of National Shame to give the necessary surge to Han nationalism.

    In fact, most countries have heroes who have caused untold miseries to their neighbours and beyond. The untold miseries and massacres by Attila the Hun, Napoleon, the various British military colonialists, the untold miseries and massacres caused by the Communists in China during the Long March and thereafter are all heroes to some and hated by others.

    One could hardly single out Japan as the sole villian of the piece.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2013
  15. t_co

    t_co Senior Member Senior Member

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    The US establishment view on Abe's Yasukuni visit is decidedly negative:

    http://blogs.cfr.org/asia/2013/12/30/abes-yasukuni-visit-the-consequences/

    The US Council on Foreign Relations can be thought of as the approved voice of America's establishment, in much the same way that the People's Daily is the approved voice of China's establishment.

    Council on Foreign Relations - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

     
  16. t_co

    t_co Senior Member Senior Member

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    If there was one thing that Abe could have done to ---- up his foreign policy strategy, visiting Yasukuni was it.
     
  17. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    The US has a big stake in China from the point of view of Economics.

    The US has a big stake in Japan for its national interests in the Pacific.

    Contradictions, right?

    The US is also known to talk from both end of the cheek! ;)

    Blow hot, blow cold and mean nothing but its national interest based on the flavour of the issue!
     
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  18. t_co

    t_co Senior Member Senior Member

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    Precisely, which is why Japan's visit was a dumb idea. If your primary ally has contradictions, why do something that brings these contradictions to the surface and forces the ally to face them - especially when said ally has chosen economics over national security in every single major foreign policy move since 1972?
     
  19. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    There is no contradiction.

    It is the typical façade played in international relationship.

    Diplomacy is all about smoke and mirrors!

    The US plays China as an ally, but goes hammer and tongs over human rights and yet does nothing in Tibet and Xinjaing and gives the Xinjiang leader Rebiya Kadeer asylum in the US.

    Smoke and Mirrors!
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2013
  20. t_co

    t_co Senior Member Senior Member

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    Ray, I think you're grasping at straws to disagree with me. Can't we just say we've found some common ground for once?

    ;)
     
  21. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    No.I am not grasping at straws.

    Double facedness is the staple of diplomats.
     

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