JAPAN: NYT slams Yasukuni visit

New York Times criticizes Prime Minister Koizumi for aggravating neighbor relations with recent visit to Yasukuni

The Korea Times
Wednesday, October 19, 2005

By Reuben Staines

New York --- The New York Times has lashed Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for his visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine on Monday, describing it as a "pointless provocation" of the country’s Northeast Asian neighbors.

"This is exactly the wrong time to be stirring up nightmare memories among the neighbors," the influential daily said in an editorial Tuesday, joining a barrage of criticism from commentators in China and South Korea.

It was Koizumi’s fifth visit as prime minister to the Tokyo shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead, including war criminals convicted of carrying out atrocities throughout Asia during and before World War II.

Reacting angrily to the visit, China canceled bilateral consultations with Japan scheduled on Monday to discuss the North Korean nuclear crisis.

In Seoul, President Roh Moo-hyun said he will likely postpone or cancel a summit with Koizumi planned for December.

Ban Ki-moon, minister of foreign affairs and trade, has also indicated he will call off a trip to Tokyo slated for later this month.

"The shrine visit is a calculated affront to the descendants of those victimized by Japanese war crimes, as the leaders of China, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore quickly made clear," the New York Times editorial said.

It also criticized Koizumi for pandering to right-wing nationalists within his ruling Liberal Democratic Party and "publicly embracing the worst traditions of Japanese militarism."

"It is time for Japan to face up to its history in the 20th century so that it can move honorably into the 21st century," the editorial advised.

In contrast to the newspaper’s strong condemnation of Koizumi, the U.S. government has been careful to avoid taking sides in the emotionally charged regional dispute.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters Washington hoped the Yasukuni visit will not present a barrier to cooperation among Northeast Asian powers.

"We think every one understands the history of the region and the region-specific issues and concerns," he said in a briefing. "We hope the countries that worry about the current problems can solve this issue with the Japanese government through dialogue."

Koizumi has also faced a backlash at home for his trip to the shrine, which had been predicted for several months.

Seeking to calm Seoul, Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura said he hoped Roh will not cancel his summit with Koizumi.

"Exchanges between the two governments should not be stopped because of one issue," he told reporters.