Japan's Rulers Keep Playing to Far Right

      January 28, 2013 13:48

      Shinjirō Koizumi

      Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his rightwing Liberal Democratic Party continue to defy international criticism with continuing attempts to distort the truth about Japan's brutal imperialist past.

      One ongoing campaign is to revise the so-called Kono Statement of 1993, which to some extent admitted the Japanese government's role in rounding up Asian sex slaves for the Japanese forces during the World War II.

      Abe also continues to assert Japan's flimsy colonial-era claim to Korea's Dokdo Islets, another issue that galvanizes the rightwingers on which his party increasingly relies for support.

      Several prominent LDP figures plan to take part in a "Takeshima Day" event in Shimane Prefecture on Feb. 22, named after the Japanese name for the Korean islets. The Sankei Shimbun on Sunday reported that leaders of the ruling party including Shinjirō Koizumi, the son of former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, will attend this year's event.

      The prefecture had administrative authority over the islets during the Japanese occupation of Korea and still chafes at the loss of the privilege.

      The LDP pledged during the general election to promote the event to the national level, but Abe is so far holding off for fear of damaging relations with Korea even further.

      Meanwhile, global policy pundits say Japan's attempt to recant the Kono Statement will backfire. Jennifer Lind, a professor at Dartmouth College, wrote in the Washington Post on Saturday, "Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he plans to revise -- likely backtracking from [the Kono statement]. Around the world, advocates of truth-telling and atonement were outraged; at home, Abe's conservative allies celebrated. Ironically, those conservatives should be among the most chagrined."

      "Japanese conservatives value love of country as an important part of national strength. They argue that focusing on past misdeeds erodes domestic patriotism, so they prefer to emphasize positive aspects of Japan's history," Lind wrote. But that attitude has been consistently "counterproductive," as both China and even North Korea, neither exactly beacons of respect for human rights, can confidently castigate Japan's past abuses.

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