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Yasukuni Shrine and Why You Should Care

August 15, 2006

Outside of journalists on the world beat, all of China and both Koreas, probably only the most narrow focused Western Japanophiles pay attention at all when a Japanese prime minister pays a visit to the Yasukuni Shrine. The shrine is ostensibly a memorial to the Japanese soldiers who died in World War II. However, the shrine is also viewed by many in East Asia whose people suffered during that war as a tribute to war criminals and a symbol of old school Japanese nationalism.

A very nicely detailed story on the shrine is up at the NPR web site. Check it out.

Koizumi paid another visit today, and prompted the usual outrage from the Chinese and Korean governments. With Koizumi getting dissed for coming to Memphis and singing Elvis songs, looking like a lame duck, it had been all but conceded that his successor would be another hard line LDP member, Shinzo Abe. However, considering the current tenuous situation with North Korea, strained relations with rising economic power China, and fellow East Asian democracy South Korea struggling to maintain improved relations, Japan may want to support a more moderate prime minister. Sadakazu Tanigaki, currently Finance Minister, has said he would not continue visits to the shrine if named PM.

If those wacky kids over there could get it together and play nice, the democracies, along with capitalist leaning China, could increase pressure on North Korea to drop their nuclear program with a heftier carrot and stick package. It would help free Japan of it’s role as the US’s lapdog in the region. What would be more interesting to me is the possiblity then of the formation of a Pacific Rim version of the European Union. With two huge regional economic powerhouses with some military savvy, this would provide a stronger check against the kind of bullheaded foreign policy we’ve seen coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave over the last few years.

The US is having enough problems with the EU and the increased strength of the Euro, so you know we’d be trying to stop that from happening. Therein lies the danger. So, the conspiracy theorist in me wonders if the US isn’t mucking up the works in the talks with North Korea just to keep their presence (military and otherwise) in the region necessary.

Hmm, one step closer to The Federation. I’m all for it.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. bridgett permalink
    August 15, 2006 8:49 pm

    That’s not conspiracy-think. That’s realpolitik. The US has no more intention of solving the Korean mess (not that Kim Jong Il is the easiest guy to negotiate with, mind) than they do of getting out of the Middle East. US strategic interests (military, but also economic) dictate that we continue to be a player and the Korean situation gives us the leverage we need.

    I’ll match your conspiracy think — I have speculated that we were somehow instrumental in helping the North Koreans get nukes, knowing that they were too damn broke and isolated to ever build up much of an arsenal. But now I’m just talking out my ass…I’m not a foreign policy expert nor do I play one on TV.

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