Japanese Politicians Visit To Yasukuni Shrine Escalates Tension
The official Chinese media have taken advantage of a visit to Germany by Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba to lecture Japan on proper behavior in atoning for its past. Germany had acted contritely both in terms of historical guilt and territorial claims, so the Japanese could do the same. This is in the context of the territorial dispute between China and Japan over a group of barren islands.
China has also signaled its displeasure with the Japanese by dispatching lower ranking officials to the joint IMF and World Bank conference in Japan.
Attacks on Japanese citizens in China continue.
The Chinese anger has not elicited a Japanese retreat and greater solicitude for China. The leader of the opposition, Liberal Democratic Party and the person most likely to become Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, visited the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo where close to 2.5 million Japanese war dead are buried, but also 14 Japanese wartime leaders convicted and executed for war crimes.
The next day the shrine was visited by dozens of Japanese Members of Parliament, including 2 cabinet ministers, despite the advice of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to refrain from such visits during a time of sensitive relations. The leader of the opposition claimed that it was normal to express respect for those who gave their lives for their country.
China's news agency Xinhua called the visits a provocation that would further poison bilateral ties. It is clear by their actions that Japanese politicians believe that public opinion favors an unbending stance towards China and polls have shown growing sentiment for a revision of the Japanese Constitution that limits the Japanese armed forces to a purely defensive role.
The Japanese press has also copied a leaf from the Chinese book by publishing interviews with anonymous Chinese citizens. While siding with their country in the territorial dispute, the interviewees are aghast at some of the anti-Japanese demonstrations and the violence against Japanese factories in China, whose employees are Chinese and sell to the Chinese.
Japan has offered to take the territorial dispute to the international Court of Justice, but the Chinese have rejected this, saying that sovereign great powers like the United States do not bring their disputes to the International court.
In attempting to explain Japanese "defiance", the Chinese point to the American connection. Although it was scheduled before the island dispute hit the headlines, a joint exercise between the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces and the American Marines will take place on November 8 --the very day the national Congress of the Communist Party opens.
The drill will simulate an amphibious assault to retake an island. The Chinese have warned the Japanese not to place their hopes on American assistance. The Asian balance of power has changed and the United States is greatly in need of cooperation with China, particularly on the economic front.