Thursday, August 23, 2007
Japanese activist gives PM the finger http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/6959849.stm
A Japanese political activist has been arrested after he cut off his little finger and posted it to PM Shinzo Abe's ruling party, according to police.
Yoshihiro Tanjo said he was protesting against Mr Abe's refusal to visit a war shrine, on the 62nd anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II.
The Yasukuni shrine is the one in Tokyo that honors all the Japanese war dead - including those later convicted of being war criminals. Personally I think that while cutting off your finger is extreme, there's a pretty cogent critique of Shinzo Abe to be made here. It's worth noting that the previous PM, Junichiro Koizumi, made a point of visiting the shrine despite the outcry of protests. I think that it's appropriate for the PM to do so, for the same reason that Confederate soldiers are buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC - they were soldiers who fought for their nation, and even if there are a handful of genuine criminals buried alongside there, it dishonors the rest more by eschewing them altogether.
Shinzo Abe campaigned on a national pride platform for Japan; he was considered a hawk who pledged to rewrite the pacifist nature of Japan's constitution. And Abe has visited the shrine before, and argued forcefully in favor of doing so. It is possible that his reticience this time is driven by concerns about offending China, which may threaten his attempts at building economic ties. Abe has made a big play to build separate economic links with both China and India, as a hedge against both. A massive Japanese business delegation just went to India:
Kamal Nath, the Indian minister for trade and industry, said Wednesday that the two countries would sign a comprehensive economic agreement by the end of the year.
Already during the visit, Japan and India have agreed on a currency swap, Mr. Abe said, allowing them to deal with a short-term liquidity squeeze.
In a series of banquets and buffets, featuring plenty of Indian food but few concessions to Japanese cuisine, Japanese executives and politicians have been gathering with their Indian counterparts to discuss everything from open skies agreements to Buddhism. Implicit in the discussion of cooperation is the notion that an allied India and Japan could help hedge against China’s growth.
I think that the shadow of China weighs heavily indeed on Abe's mind. His first official trip as PM was to Beijing, after all. It's hard to see his refusal to visit Yasukuni this time in any other light.
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