Ex-Japanese PM: Abe should not visit Yasukuni Shrine 

Former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, at the age of 90, showed he still has an amazingly clear mind when Cai Hong, China Daily's Tokyo bureau chief, conducted an exclusive interview at his home.

His recollections were awash with wit and humor and his advanced age does not mean he is weak. He maintains a busy schedule, being invited to deliver speeches on Japan's war history, responsibilities and future in every corner of Japan. He is gratified to find that his talks are well received by his young audience.

During the interview, Mr. Murayama expressed his suspicion of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's motives in shifting Japan away from its post-war status. 

Opinion: Japan cannot disguise its past

Ex-Japanese PM: Abe should not visit Yasukuni Shrine

Q: Do you think Japanese prime ministers should visit Yasukuni Shrine?

A: I don't think it is an issue when ordinary Japanese people pay respects to Japan's fallen soldiers or their own relatives at Yasukuni. However, a visit by a Japanese prime minister is a clear violation of the peace treaty Japan signed with its neighboring countries after the war. Japan accepted the convictions of the Class A war criminals by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. As a result, Japan has grown into what it is today. A prime minister's pilgrimage to the shrine means that Japan is going back on its political pledge. He should not visit.

Q: What do you think that Japan should do to resolve the Yasukuni issue, which causes such diplomatic fallout?

A: Japanese prime ministers should shun the shrine, not least to support separation of religion and the state. Yasukuni was a Shinto site where Japan honored its fallen soldiers before the war. Now it pays homage to war criminals, and exhibitions within its walls extol wars. Those prime ministers who make pilgrimages to the shrine should be publicly criticized.

Q: Do you think Japan needs to build another venue that is free of controversy?

A: We had such an idea of building a new memorial, which has nothing to do with religion, for those who died for their country. Yasukuni has enshrined ordinary soldiers along with the Class A war criminals. Some people recommend that it no longer should enshrine war criminals. There were also other proposals but none remains feasible. So I think the best solution is that prime ministers and Cabinet members shun the shrine.

Q: Abe's Cabinet has decided to allow Japan the right to collective self-defense. What implications do you think this will have on Japan's relations with its neighbors?

Ex-Japanese PM: Abe should not visit Yasukuni Shrine
Former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama poses for a photo with his daughter during the interview. 

A: Japan's Constitution renounces the right to wage war. The postwar administrations prior to the Abe Cabinet followed this. Since taking office in December 2012, Abe has tried to revise the interpretation of the Constitution. His approach is unconstitutional.

The Abe administration has exaggerated the dangers Japan is faced with. Japan should figure out how to clear up the factors that Abe takes as the justifications for collective self-defense rather than exercising the right.

Q: How do you respond to the co-existence of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK)?  

A: There is a bright future ahead for further development in northeast Asia in the coming decades. Therefore, China, Japan and the ROK should deepen their multilateral cooperation and work to jointly safeguard peace and security in Asia. I have similar aspirations for all people concerned with peaceful growth in the region.

I believe China will agree with me. I have made many visits to the country, Chinese leaders vow to stick to peaceful development and never seek hegemony. Therefore, both China and Japan should deepen their mutual trust and promote further cooperation in many fields, which is critical for the maintenance of peace and security in northeast Asia. More questions are to be answered when it comes to the future of the region.

Source: chinadaily.com.cn   Reporter: Cai Hong