On August 15, the 61st anniversary of Japan's unconditional surrender to the allies in 1945, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi again paid tribute to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honours 14 Class-A war criminals among Japan's war dead.
This was his sixth visit to the war shrine since 2001. But the previous visits all steered clear of the sensitive date of August 15.
Koizumi's outrageous act, in defiance of strong opposition from the international community particularly Japan's neighbours, which fell victim to Japan's aggression in history and from many Japanese citizens, was naturally condemned at home and abroad.
The editorial of France's La Liberation, for example, lashed out at Koizumi's paying homage to the war shrine, comparing him to Jorg Haider, Austria's far-right politician. The editorial went on to say that the Yasukuni visit would orientate Japan's nationalist sentiment towards becoming more aggressive. It is by no means accidental that the French media produced such incisive criticism, as France suffered enormously during World War II.
Some Japanese call Koizumi a "political magician." Professor Masahiko Fujiwara says in his best-selling "Nation's Dignity" that Adolf Hitler won the support of Germans when he annexed Austria in 1938 not because he was domineering but because he deftly manipulated the Germans' nationalist feelings to his own ends. Hitler was a political magician good at playing tricks of "democracy."
Why does Koizumi cling to the Yasukuni Shrine? Because the war shrine, in the eyes of Japan's right-wing politicians, constitutes the best stage prop in their political magic show.
Koizumi deliberately provokes China and the Republic of Korea (ROK), both Japan's war victims, and stings the feelings of their citizens, by repeatedly visiting the war shrine.
Conversely, Koizumi twists the protests from China and the ROK into pressure constantly exercised on the Japanese nation, which is aimed at subjecting Japan to eternal humiliation. So, he time and again vows that he will "never bow to China," in a bid to whip up antagonist feelings among the Japanese and, in turn, win the most possible political support for his successor who, he expects, will follow his right-wing political line.
In view of all this, Koizumi's protestations that he pays homage to the Yasukuni Shrine purely out of his "personal convictions" are nothing but sophism. His war-shrine visits are motivated by political purposes and are, therefore, purely political acts, not personal options.
Polls conducted on the very day of Koizumi's Yasukuni visit this year indicated that those who opposed the visit accounted for more than 50 per cent of those surveyed, while those who were in favour made up 40 per cent. The fact that 40 per cent of the Japanese are in favour of Koizumi's shrine visit shows that his political magic tricks have indeed had some effect. His hardline attitude that he would "never bow to China" has the sympathy of those Japanese who subscribe to his lie that China has ever been pressuring Japan.
On the other hand, the fact that 50 per cent of the Japanese oppose Koizumi's Yasukuni visit shows that his political magic show is far from successful. Some Japanese are really worried that Japan is faced with the risk of going into war if this state of affairs continues.
At each of his visits to Yasukuni, Koizumi has harped on the same string: Japan's prosperity today is based on sacrifices made by those who fell on the battleground. As a matter of fact, Japan's post-war economic success is the direct result of the country's embarking of the road of peaceful development shortly after World War II.
Koizumi's attribution of the current prosperity to the war is pure whitewashing of the aggressive wars launched by Japanese militarists. His behaviour is also tantamount to forsaking the San Francisco Peace Treaty and the outcomes of the trials at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East.
A string of Koizumi's hawkish policies lay bare his true purpose of whitewashing the war of aggression on the one hand and negating peace on the other. Fortunately, more and more Japanese have come to see through Koizumi's political tricks.
Magicians' tricks are doomed to be laid bare. And it will by no means be easy for Koizumi's successor to put on such magic shows in the future.
The author is a senior research fellow from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
(China Daily 08/24/2006 page4)