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Some in LDP Question Yasukuni Visits

Posted November. 05, 2005 03:02,   


Although the increasing Japanese political shift toward the right is fueling concern in the global community, there are dissenting voices in the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

In an interview on November 4, former LDP Secretary General Koichi Kato (65) said, “The prime minister’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine reminds us of pain that neighboring countries suffered.” He also emphasized that Japan should adopt a foreign policy that values Asia and the bilateral friendship with Korea.

He said, “As Japan inflicted damage on neighboring countries in World War Ⅱ, we should strongly reflect on that and introduce a foreign policy that demonstrates our thoughtful reflection.” He also added that he is worried greatly over recent developments.

Kato has fulfilled the responsibilities of key posts in Japanese political circles, including secretary general of the LDP, foreign minister and defense minister. He was also considered a strong candidate for prime minister before Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Currently, he is a hidden man of influence in the LDP who has opposed the prime minister’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, the dispatch of Self-Defense Forces to Iraq, and an amendment to the peace constitution.

Former LDP Vice President Taku Yamasaki, Prime Minister Koizumi and Kato were once staunch political allies who advocated reform of the party, and were referred together as “YKK.” But he recently became estranged with the prime minister, as he opposed the prime minister’s foreign policy.

“I don’t think Korea and China demand more than reflection and apology for the past history which Japan has already offered. Japan should be careful not to take action which is contradictory with its apology. The country should not create an occasion of reminding all of the past, while Korea and China have a more forward-looking attitude.”

Recently, he and Yamasaki have been preparing for a gathering of lawmakers to push forward building a national memorial which will replace the Yasukuni Shrine. He is planning to hold a founding general assembly of the group on November 8 but is not sure how many representatives will participate.

With respect to the reason that the Japanese political community is recently moving toward the right, he said with regret, “The prime minister’s plan to continue his visit to the Yasukuni Shrine is influencing many sectors.” However, regarding Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Taro Aso, who are attracting attention with the recent cabinet reshuffle, he requested that Korea have a long-term perspective of them, saying, “As they are ministers now, they will adjust their positions and be cautious.”

What are the Northeast Asian Relations that He Envisages?-

“We should create a loose standing Northeast Asia security guarantee organization by adding the U.S. and Russia to the core members of Korea, China and Japan. The spread of the idea of security guarantee across Asia should be the core diplomatic idea. In the process, the Korean peninsula will be unified. I believe that the unification could come earlier than expected.”

He repeatedly said that a majority of Japanese people believe the country should maintain a good relationship with Asian countries. He requested a broad, long-term perspective, as the major trends of Japanese society will not change in any way.

Since his participation in a Japan-Korea forum about 15 years ago, he has frequently come to Korea. This is his 10th visit. He said he would come to Korea more often in the future.

Young-A Soh sya@donga.com