Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Yasukuni Shrine on Dec. 26. As expected, China and the Republic of Korea harshly criticized him. In the United States, the media was also critical. The New York Times published an editorial on Dec. 26 criticizing Abe’s visit to Yasukuni as a part of his effort aimed at “transforming the Japanese military from one that is strictly for territorial defense to one that can go to war anywhere.”
South Korea and Chinese reactions were predictable. After all, they criticized Mr. Abe harshly, deploring his tilt to the right even when he did not visit the shrine in autumn and dedicated an offering instead. Therefore, his actual visit to Yasukuni was guaranteed to bring about even harsher criticism by Beijing and Seoul.
What was probably surprising to those in Japan was the U.S. government’s response. The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo took an unprecedented step by issuing a statement shortly after Abe’s visit saying that the United States was “disappointed” over an action “that will exacerbate tensions with its [Japan’s] neighbors.” This statement was repeated by the State Department’s deputy spokesman on Dec. 30. Many people in Japan expressed anger and frustration with United States for joining China and South Korea in their criticism of Abe’s visit.
To read the full op-ed, click here.
This op-ed first appeared in The Japan News on January 14, 2014
Photo by CSIS via flickr (cropped to fit)