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Controversy over Maligned Yasukuni Shrine Abates

Posted August. 14, 2008 06:32,   


536 cases in 2006, 60 last year and 51 cases this year.

These figures represent the number of articles run by five major Japanese dailies Aug. 1-14 each year on the controversial Yasukuni Shrine that honors Japan’s war dead, including convicted World War II war criminals.

The official visit by the Japanese prime minister to the shrine used to cause protests at home and China until two years ago. Fortunately, the controversy has slowly eroded.

A diplomatic source in Tokyo said, “Not just Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, but major cabinet ministers including the chief cabinet secretary and foreign minister are not likely to pay their respects at the shrine Friday, the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II."

"Though some cabinet ministers are expected to visit the shrine, it is less likely to cause an angry response from the Korean and Chinese governments.”

As the conflict over the shrine has died down among the three neighboring nations, Japanese enthusiasm to visit the shrine has been declined.

The number of Japanese visitors to the shrine Aug. 15 reached a record-high 250,000 in 2006 under Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who was the first prime minister to visit Yasukuni in 21 years.

The controversy, however, could re-erupt at any time since most discussions on the conflict’s fundamental solution have been blocked, experts say.

The Japanese daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun said building a national memorial facility to coexist with the shrine in Tokyo was proposed when Fukuda served as chief cabinet secretary. But the construction measure remains in the blueprint.

Moreover, the suggestion to separate the memorial tablets of Class-A war criminals from the shrine has seen no progress.

Under this background, it is hard to rule out that Japanese politicians and nationalists will not again aggressively revive the controversy.

A case in point is the Japanese Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry’s move to promote official visits to the shrine among Japanese students in a recent seminar on a guidebook for middle school textbooks.

The ministry has taken the lead in distorting history and claiming sovereignty over the Dokdo islets in the East Sea.