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Korea-Japan Relations After Koizumi?

Posted September. 21, 2006 05:59,   


What are the prospects for Japan’s relations with Korea and China and for summit talks in the upcoming Shinzo Abe era?

Japan’s diplomatic ties with Korea and China have been significantly strained by Prime Minister Koizumi’s controversial visit to the Yasukuni Shrine last October. Since then, talks between summits have been suspended.

Shinzo Abe, the new president of the Liberal Democratic Party, is reportedly looking forward to Japan-Korea and Japan-China summits because he cannot afford to inherit Koizumi cabinet’s biggest faux-pas or the diplomatic failure in Asian affairs.

Currently underway is the groundwork for talks with neighboring countries through diplomatic channels. Japanese diplomatic sources say rumors have it that Abe is ready to pay a surprise visit to Korea or China if his counterparts are willing to meet with him before the APEC summit scheduled for November in Vietnam.

However, one should not jump to a conclusion. While calling for a summit, Abe has never pledged to stop visiting the Yasukuni Shrine but has never acted on other options to separate Class A wartime criminals from the shrine.

He has been ambiguous about visiting the war shrine, saying, “I am not going to tell whether I went there or not or whether I will go there or not.” He was reported to have paid a secret visit in April, which he refused to confirm.

Some say that Abe refused to comment on that out of respect for Korea and China, but others say that he has the intention to continue visiting the shrine.