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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Yasukuni causes 'unhappiness': Lee Kuan Yew

Former Premier Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew tells Japanese Premier Minister Koizumi that his visits to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo is causing “unhappiness in Asia” but economical relations will not sour because of it. Lee Kuan Yew was always one to favour financial arguments over all else.

"Mr Lee Kuan Yew told me that China is only applying psychological pressure through the Yasukuni problem, and that there is no change to the underlying foundation of Japan-China relations. I agree completely." Mr Koizumi is quoted today as saying in the unlinkable South China Morning Post.

Koizumi lays out the Lee’s statement as if there is no reason to criticise him for going to Yasukuni.

I agree with Lee that if it wasn’t for the Yasukuni issue, China and Korea would just find something else to complain about. It’s not like there is a lack of options in that department either.

I disagree, however, with Koizumi’s position that all is then fine and dandy.

Aside from the constitutional problems of an acting PM worshipping at a shrine, there is the point of ‘not giving them an excuse to complain when there are perfectly good ways to avoid it’. Yasukuni is bad choice of diplomacy when Japan is trying to gain a seat the UN Security Council.

Koizumi could choose to remember the war dead at the secular Tomb for Unidentified War Victims at Chidorigafuchi in Tokyo or at the Peace Park in Hiroshima. He could even build a new memorial site, which has been debated several times in the Japanese Diet and rejected.

Of course we know why he attends Yasukuni. Before he was elected PM for the first time in 2001, Koizumi promised that, in return for the votes of the War Veterans’ Organisation he would go to Yasukuni once a year for as long as he was in office. That’s why.

Unlike Mr Lee whom China probably considers firmly on their side on the Yasukuni issue, neither China not Korea was never any good at subtle diplomacy. I still do wish that they would turn it down a notch and thereby not force the next Japanese PM into choosing between honouring Koizumi’s policies and disowning him. I especially hope that China isn’t stupid enough to think that they can threaten a Japanese PM into not going to Yasukuni.

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