International Information Programs
November 7, 2005

November 7, 2005




**  Papers say PM Koizumi reshuffled his cabinet to line up his successor.

**  Asian and Euro writers see the rise of a Japanese "right-wing camp."

**  Analysts worry about Koizumi's "increasingly icy relations" with Asian neighbors.

**  Observers note delicate balance of "top-priority" U.S.-Japan alliance.




'Operation Successor Japanese style'--  With the recent cabinet appointments of Shinzo Abe and Taro Aso, outlets stated the goal of PM Koizumi's "third cabinet reshuffle" was to guarantee policy continuity.  Russia's business-oriented Kommersant opined that Koizumi's mission is to return Japan to "its former might," rather than to "remain on the sidelines of world politics."  Hong Kong's independent Ming Pao Daily News commented, the new cabinet lineup does not bode well for the future; if Abe were to succeed Koizumi, Yasukuni Shrine visits would continue, causing friction with neighboring countries, noted Japan's liberal Asahi. 


'Emergence of militarism'--  Writers attacked Japan's recent "rightward" political shift as a "dangerous first step."  Russia's centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta alleged that Koizumi set out to "turn Japan into a military giant" in order to "build a fence" around China.  Hong Kong's PRC-owned Wen Wei Po criticized Koizumi's "right-leaning cabinet" of "hard-liners"; it will soon be "unable to extricate itself from the mire of militarism," stated another Chinese paper.  With the revival of Japanese "militant ideology," a Malaysian analyst worried about efforts to "build peace and stability" in Asia.  S. Korea's independent Joong-Ang Ilbo faulted Koizumi for placing "ultra-rightists" in key posts, creating a "battleground" to compete for "military hegemony." 


'Concern over Asia diplomacy'--  Editorialists contended Koizumi "lost many golden opportunities" to improve diplomatic ties by "turning a blind eye" to its neighbors' concerns.  Japan's liberal Mainichi asked how Koizumi will "rebuild Japan's stagnant Asia diplomacy"; Japan must "pursue its Asia diplomacy with a wider view," judged Japan's conservative Sankei.  Another Japanese analyst expressed "grave doubts" whether the new cabinet can "get Japan's Asia diplomacy back on track."  If Koizumi sacrifices Japan's long-term ties with its neighbors he will "alienate Asia," claimed the ROK's nationalist Chosun Ilbo.  What the region needs is "an alliance of democracies with real clout" to ensure regional conflicts "remain the responsibility of diplomats, not generals," argued Taiwan's pro-independence Taipei Times.


'U.S.-Japan alliance'--  While dailies recognized Japan's U.S. alliance as its "top foreign policy priority," they foresaw difficulties with Koizumi's "strategic diplomacy."  S. Korea's left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun asserted that Koizumi will "orbit thoroughly around the U.S.," while "sacrificing relations with Asia."  Other ROK writers noted that "discord" between the ROK, China, and Japan can "undermine U.S. national interests" and observed the U.S. does not want to "strain its relations" in the region.  China's official Global Times claimed a Japan "going its own way" will negatively "impact U.S. interests" and "create U.S. antipathy."


Prepared by Media Reaction Division (202) 203-7888,


EDITOR:  Susan L. Emerson


EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 42 reports from 10 political entities over 18 October - 7 November, 2005.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.




BRITAIN:  "Japanese Reform At Risk"


The independent Financial Times editorialized (11/1):  "Junichiro Koizumi, the Japanese Prime Minister, is a political enigma but there is no doubting either his charisma or his determination to reform the country's hidebound domestic economy.  His supporters...are therefore anxious about his plans to step down on schedule next year....  If Mr. [Shinzo] Abe does eventually become prime minister following yesterday's reshuffle, he would certainly make an impact on Japanese foreign policy.  Unfortunately, it is not so obvious that he would eagerly advance the economic reforms begun by Mr. Koizumi."


GERMANY:  "Quarrelling in East Asia"


Karl Grobe opined in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (10/24):  "For the fifth time, an activity of Japan's Prime Minister Koizumi has started a political freezer in South Asia.  He again visited the Yasukuni Shrine....  Such visits always convey a commitment to the imperialist military history of Japan before 1945....  Korea and China…could ignore the matter as a gaffe or self-confidently remain silent about it.  But the visit to the Yasukuni Shrine is not the reason for the grudge....  At issue are business and politics, and the latter is increasingly based on military matters.  When the security pact between Washington and Tokyo was amended for the umpteenth time and its areas of jurisdiction were extended, the powers-that-be in Beijing and Seoul, but also in Pyongyang, are smelling the smoke of a gun in their noses.  The suspicion that Japan's self-confident and...tougher, global policy could lead to a confrontation is considerably rising....  Investment and supply interests are still linking the three powers to with each other to such a degree that the willingness for diplomatic activities prevails.  But diplomacy is more than umbrella during rains of crisis.  It must help safeguard peace in the long run."


"Stumbling Shrine"


Henrik Bork noted in an editorial in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (10/20):  "With respect to domestic policy, Japan's Prime Minister Koizumi is swimming on a wave of success, but as far as foreign policy is concerned he is a failure.  Within four years, he helped to run down political relations with China to a bottom low, and now Premier Koizumi again visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, a symbol of Japanese nationalism.  Because 14 war criminals are buried at the shrine, a Japanese leader has no business to go there...he wants to express that he does not give a damn about the feelings of those peoples in Asia who suffered from Japan's aggressive wars.  Against the background of anti-Japanese unrest in China...and serious problems between Tokyo and Beijing, the visit must be described as defiant and almost frivolous.  At a time, when reconciliation and a repair of relations between Japan and China would be urgently necessary, Koizumi has now poured even more oil into the fire.  North Korea...hit the right tone by condemning the visit as 'tactless'....  Koizumi's stubborn provocation is simply a bad foreign and economic policy.  Japan increasingly needs China as an export market.  Tokyo will not be able for too long to show this chauvinist disrespect of historically based resentments."


"Koizumi Prays And Provokes"


Marco Kauffmann noted in leftist die tageszeitung of Berlin (10/18):  "Junichiro Koizumi's pilgrimage to the Yasukuni Shrine is by no means an expression of a lack of political sensitivity.  The brilliant strategist...knows what kind of reaction he will provoke:  outrage and a lack of understanding in Beijing and Seoul.  The relations that are tense anyway will continue to deteriorate, and even in Japan, the praying provocateur will only get support from the right-wing camp....  But Premier Koizumi wants to be reminded not only as an economic but also as a political reformer, as someone who takes off the penitential robe as former war aggressor to help Japan gain new self-confidence....  The governmental leader represents a new Japan that does not allow anyone to tell it how it should commemorate its former war dead....  After four years in office, Koizumi is at the peak of his political career...but with respect to the Yasukuni shrine, Koizumi's perseverance borders on stubbornness.  When taking office, he promised to visit the war shrine on an annual basis.  He has stuck to his promise.  But instead of taking advantage of his political strength to move a step closer to China and South Korea, Koizumi is now turning into a stickler for principles.  On Monday, he forfeited the chance for better neighborly relations."


"Visit To The Shinto Shrine"


Right-of-center Nürnberger Zeitung of Nuremberg opined (10/18):  "With gestures like the visit to the Shinto shrine, Japan is jeopardizing a beginning reconciliation.  Presumably, Premier Koizumi, who won new elections in September and has only recently implemented economic reforms, feels untouchable.  It is an unfortunate providence that China is currently also extremely self-confident.  It succeeded with an outer space mission, which is being celebrated as great progress of a powerful nation.  Provocations à la Koizumi will now again be used as a reason for China to modernize its armed forces."


RUSSIA:  "Koizumi And Co."


Nataliya Gevorkyan commented in business-oriented Kommersant (11/1):  “Changes and new appointments in Japan’s ruling party are, in effect, the start of Operation Successor.   Analogies (to Russia) seem in order, particularly because Koizumi also wants his country to return to its former might, including in the military field, and political influence.  Beyond that, differences, substantial ones, begin.  Koizumi is thinking of leaving with his popularity at its peak, unwilling to try the electorate’s patience.  He hopes to see the reforms carried through, confident that otherwise Japan won’t make headway and will remain on the sidelines of world politics.  The proposed reforms are clearly liberal, designed to put an end to the ineffective period of state capitalism.  No one on the new team, including the Prime Minister himself, is known to have been involved in corruption scandals.   All share common views.  Operation Successor Japanese style has a clear goal that, using our terminology, may be defined as a ‘liberal perestroika.’”


"Tokyo, Pacifism Go Separate Ways"


Artur Blinov held in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (11/1): “Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has set out to abolish the peaceful Constitution in order to turn Japan into a military giant.   Now, apart from the familiar territorial claims to Russia, we may hear about Japanese military exercises in the rigorous Alaska climate.  This follows from events late last week marking an unheard-of about-face in Tokyo’s defense policy.  The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Prime Minister Koizumi want Japan, the world’s second largest economy, to acquire a comparable military status and join Washington in building a military fence around booming China.  That explains why Koizumi visited the Yasukuni temple recently.   He did so to nudge Beijing into what has become habitual gestures of confrontation.  A savvy tactician, he virtually provoked a political crisis to demonstrate the neighbor’s ‘perilous’ character and push a military construction program.  But evidently, the consequences of the said changes won’t end there, as they are sure to affect security in all of East and South East Asia.”




CHINA:  "Japan's Constitutional Revision A Dangerous First Step"


Yan Guoqun wrote in Beijing-based Liberation Army Daily (Internet version, 10/30):  "On 28 October, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the ruling party in Japan, passed a constitutional revision draft bill, the most crucial point of which was the request to elevate the Self Defense Forces [jieitai] (SDF) into a Self Defense Military Force [jieigun].  It is safe to say that, in the context in which political circles in Japan have not been able to show true remorse for their wars of aggression and in which there is an overall rightward shift politically in society, this approach, which is an attempt to "rectify the name" of Japan's military forces, is a dangerous first step, and not only has it caused enormous repercussions within Japan, it also immediately became the focus of the international community....  In recent years, political circles in Japan have brooded about the fact that, to date, Japan has still not been able to achieve the status of a political power.  However, they do not look for the reasons for this in the visits to the Yasukuni Shrine and the erroneous view of history, which whitewashes the wars of aggression, but instead one-sidedly believe that it is so because they are not backed by a powerful military force."


"Koizumi Should Learn To Be A Mature Leader"


Liu Shinan commented in the official English-language newspaper China Daily (10/26):  "Frankly speaking, the Yasukuni visit by the Japanese Prime Minister is a tedious topic.  It comes up every year triggering protests and comments....  After paying homage at the Yasukuni Shrine, Koizumi complained....  Koizumi sounded like a child being wronged....  Instead, he is a statesman and the government head of a major power in the world....  He wants to appear as a political strongman who defies pressure from the international community concerning the controversy over the visit to Yasukuni by Japanese politicians.  He wants to woo Japan's rightists....  Rightist forces in the country found encouragement from this sentiment and became more unscrupulous in their attempt to resurrect militarism....  Koizumi's five visits to the place undoubtedly abetted this dangerous tendency....  But a statesman should not be easily influenced by such fluctuations.  He should refrain from the urge to make use of common people's immaturity to attain his own political goals.  Koizumi should not forget his responsibility to his nation and people.  He should also learn to be more mature as a statesman and a world leader."


"Koizumi Visits The Shrine, Japan Pays A New Cost"


Gao Hong and Zhang Lixia commented in the official Communist Party international news publication Global Times (10/21):  "This time the U.S. did not just stand by and look any more.  Analysts indicate that Koizumi wouldn't be so insistent if the U.S. didn't always stay silent about it....  The New York Times issued a commentary titled 'Tokyo's Meaningless Provocation,' launching strong criticism of Koizumi's Shrine visit.  Compared with the U.S. media, the U.S. government just took a neutral attitude....  It is predicted that the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State will visit Japan and urge Japan to improve relations with neighboring countries.  The U.S. government also advised having a nongovernmental dialogue between the U.S., Japan, and China about China-Japan historical issues.  In the past, the U.S. was not willing to get involved in the China-Japan issue because it wanted to maintain influence and control in Asia through Japan.  Long-term conflict between China and Japan is in the U.S. interest.  However the U.S. has also noticed some changes in Japan:  it has started to go out of control, beyond U.S. intentions.  The development of Japan's domestic situation can make East Asia more tense.  It becomes more isolated in Asia.  For the U.S., a Japan that is influential in Asia is better than a Japan that is isolated.  It hopes Japan will not destroy U.S.-China relations.  Japan going its own way on historical issues will impact U.S. interests and create U.S. antipathy."


"Koizumi's Argument Self-Contradictory"


Liu Jiangyong held in the official Communist Party People's Daily (Internet version, 10/19):  "Since Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi took office in 2001, he has paid five successive visits to the Yasukuni Shrine.  He has defended his behavior many times....  This self-contradictory chaotic logic [of Koizumi's arguments in defense of his visits] do not have any persuasive power.  Koizumi's insistence on visiting the Yasukuni Shrine has not only seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people, but has repeatedly disturbed the efforts of people from all sectors in both countries to improve bilateral relations, and has become the crucial reason why Sino-Japanese relations have fallen into a difficult situation."


"Japan Only Has To Face Up To History To Have A Future"


Wu Guangyi commented in Beijing's People's Net (Internet version, 10/19):  "This is already his fifth visit to the Yasukuni Shrine [on 17 October], which has created an unprecedented bad record.  Koizumi has defended his shrine visits, saying that this is a 'spiritual issue', others should not carry out interference, and that this is not an issue which foreign governments can say 'no' to.  This kind of action of disregarding right and wrong, acting wilfully and unscrupulously, and resorting to sophistry has made people outraged."


"Responsibility For Wrongdoing Cannot Be Evaded"


Zhang Shun said in the official Liberation Army Daily (Internet version, 10/19):  "Koizumi's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine this time, will inevitably continue to seriously destroy Japan's relations with neighboring Asian countries, and will make Japan even more isolated from its close Asian neighbors and the international community on issues of historical understanding....  If [Japan] does not carry out profound introspection on its concepts of history and views on the war, but stubbornly wallows in the past, it will be unable to extricate itself from the mire of wallowing in militarism, and the consequences will certainly run counter to the wishes of Japan and the people of neighbouring Asian countries....  If Japan truly takes this step, it will be hard for Koizumi to evade historical responsibility for his wrongdoing."


"Koizumi's Yasukuni Shrine Visit"


Official Communist Party People's Daily editorialized (10/18):  "On precisely this year which is the 60th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japan and the world war against fascism, Koizumi has brazenly visited the Yasukuni Shrine once again, and this is a challenge to human conscience and international justice, wanton harm to the feelings and dignity of the people of countries victimized during World War II, and has seriously harmed Sino-Japanese relations....  Koizumi must bear full responsibility for the grave political consequences caused by his destruction of Sino-Japanese relations."


CHINA (HONG KONG SAR):  "Koizumi's Right-Leaning Cabinet"


PRC-owned Wen Wei Po editorialized (Internet version, 11/1):  "Yesterday Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi carried out a large-scale reshuffling of his cabinet, and the moderates who the Japanese media had predicted ahead of time might once again join the cabinet were squeezed out, while a number of hard-liners who have always supported taking a hard line with neighboring countries and who have also supported Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine joined the cabinet smoothly.  The new cabinet in the Japanese government evinces a further trend of turning to the right, which is not only the result of the sedulous operations of Japan's extreme rightist forces, led by Koizumi, it is also a reflection of a rightward trend in Japanese society and the emergence of militarism, so with this, Japan's relations with its neighbors--the prospects for which were already gloomy--as well as peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and Japan's own future, have had a heavy pall cast over them....  In the days to come, the Chinese government should continue to promote official and non-governmental economic and cultural exchanges between the two countries, striving to use dialogues and talks to resolve bilateral disputes.  However, on issues of principle such as things involving history and territory, etc., it should take a firm stand and, when necessary, should even have a proper show of China's force, not displaying weakness, in order to keep the Japanese from pushing for even more concessions."


"Reshuffle Bodes No Improvement"


Juan Chi-hung wrote in the Chinese-language independent Ming Pao Daily News (Internet version, 11/1):  "After announcing his new cabinet lineup, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi stated that the new cabinet will seek ways to improve Japan's relations with China, the Republic of Korea [ROK] and other countries.  However, Jin Linbo, director of the Asia-Pacific Research Office of the Beijing Institute of International Studies, said in an interview with this paper's reporter that Japanese prime ministers used to make efforts to balance the influence of different factions.  Regarding the goal of Koizumi's third cabinet reshuffle, Jin Linbo said Koizumi hopes that the reshuffle will guarantee the continuity of his policy direction after he steps down from office.  Judging from the new cabinet lineup, however, there is basically no room for improving Sino-Japanese ties.  In fact, right now it is difficult to see in what way Koizumi's successor will inherit his [political] line.  Considering Shinzo Abe and Taro Aso's past remarks on China, the development of Sino-Japanese relations brooks no optimism." 


"Grave Dilemma"


Bennett Richardson wrote in the 'Behind the News' column in the independent English-language South China Morning Post (10/21):  "A visit on Monday by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Kozumi to a Tokyo shrine where 14 Class-A war criminals are honored alongside 2.5 million war dead suggests little has changed in the way he views relations with China....  Tensions over the issue have led to increasingly icy relations, not only in the political arena, but between ordinary citizens of China and Japan.  Annual Japanese government surveys show a steady decline in Japanese affinity with mainland Chinese over the past 25 years to a low of 38 per cent last year, from 79 per cent in 1980.  Another steep drop is likely in this year's poll....  But political watchers have suggested that a new pro-Yasukuni and anti-China group is emerging.  Younger Japanese are often poorly informed about the history of Sino-Japanese relations and so have difficulty in forming an objective opinion on events.  Yukio Besshi, an expert on Sino-Japanese ties at Shimane University in western Japan, says the younger generation tend to view anti-Japan acts in China outside of any historical context and so support Mr. Koizumi's visits to the shrine as a way of expressing their own anti-China sentiment.  But on the whole, public sentiment appears to have become more sympathetic towards Beijing as a result of Mr. Koizumi's perceived poor handling of China policy.  A growing number of Japanese seem to think the policy of engaging China economically but opposing it politically is not constructive."


"China And U.S. In Frequent Contact, While China And Japan Drift Apart"


The pro-PRC Chinese-language Wen Wei Po editorialized (10/19):  "Compared with Sino-U.S. relations, Sino-Japan relations are more fragile and sensitive due to historical reasons and the political reality.  Both sides must double their efforts to protect relations.  As the prime minister of Japan, however, Junichiro Koizumi went back on his promise by visiting the Yasukuni Shrine again, defying strong protests from China and other Asian countries.  He has wantonly injured the dignity of the former victims' countries.  In doing so, he has gravely damaged Sino-Japan relations, forcing the Chinese government to cancel the Japanese Foreign Minister's China visit.  This illustrates the Chinese government's indignation and that of its people against Koizumi's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine.  It is also a grave warning to Japan's extreme right."  


"Koizumi Is a Trouble Maker"


The mass-circulation Chinese-language Apple Daily News remarked (10/19):  "Koizumi has again visited the Yasukuni Shrine.  His action has already indicated that he cares not about the views or feelings of neighboring countries.  The visit also showed that his rhetoric about improving relations with neighboring countries was hollow.  The Chinese government's response to temporarily halt all mutual diplomatic visits is therefore appropriate and reasonable, hence China's cancellation of Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura's upcoming visit....  By visiting the Yasukuni Shrine again, Koizumi has erected a big obstacle not only to Sino-Japanese diplomatic relations, but also to mutual cooperation.  These obstacles will not be overcome in a short run."


"Koizumi Isolates Self By Playing With Fire"


The center-left Chinese-language Sing Pao Daily News judged (10/19):  "Just as all of China was celebrating the successful return of the Shenzhou VI space ship, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited the Yasukuni Shrine, where the country's top war criminals are buried.  Koizumi's provocative move has pushed Sino-Japanese relations, which had seemed to relax recently, into an abyss.  Beijing immediately announced the cancellation of the upcoming visit by Japan's Foreign Minister.  This is a fair and reasonable reaction.  In face of key questions of right and wrong, there is no room for compromise to safeguard China's national interests and dignity.  But China must not be confused by Koizumi's illogical move.  It should insist on its long-term diplomatic strategy of peaceful development to isolate the extreme right."


"China Should Face Japan's Provocation Cautiously"


Zhang Wang commented in independent Ming Pao Daily News (10/18):  "China should respond cautiously under the guiding principle of its 'peaceful rise' strategy to Japan's excessive responses and all kinds of provocations--Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi choosing the timing of the successful return to Earth of China's Shenzhou VI to visit the Yasukuni Shrine, is an example.  Based on the premise of the two main principles of not violating national sovereignty and territorial integrity, Beijing should do its utmost to avoid provoking Japan militarily, and use all kinds of soft power to propagandize a positive image of China's peaceful rise to the Japanese populace."


"Koizumi Must Make Amends For Shrine Visit"


The independent, English-language South China Morning Post had this to say (Internet version, 10/18):  "Choosing the day when China was celebrating the successful completion of its latest space mission made the trip all the more provocative....  For the sake of regional stability, [Koizumi] should apologize to those he has offended in the humblest possible manner."


TAIWAN:  "Yasukuni Dims Prospects For Better Sino-Japan Ties"


The conservative, pro-unification, English-language China Post wrote (11/5):  "It seems that Beijing-Tokyo relations, which have never been smooth in the past five years, will face a tough ride in the future when Japan’s hawkish prime minister Junichiro Koizumi steps down next year and hands the reins to another hard-line successor.  The reason for this downbeat view is not difficult to see.  Standing in the way of improved relations between the two Asian giants is the 'Yasukuni issue'--a shrine that houses 14 Class-A war criminals of World War II that Koizumi has visited five times in as many years as prime minister, in disregard of Beijing’s protests against such visits that they regard as a gesture to justify Japan’s war of aggression....  Therefore, it can be anticipated that Koizumi’s successor will follow the footsteps of his predecessor....  Beijing regards the Yasukuni issue as a prerequisite for improving Sino-Japanese relations.  Beijing, in the face of a popular anti-Japan sentiment, is unlikely to beat a retreat.  Likewise, Japan’s next government of hard-line conservatives seems certain to take a get-tough-on-China stance.  With the support of public opinion, Japan’s hawks will resist outside pressure from Beijing and Seoul and continue their bold march to the shrine, casting a dark shadow on their mutual ties."


"Avoid Wishful Thinking On Japan"


Assistant Research Fellow, Tsai Zheng-jia at the Institute of International Relations of National Chengchi University, commented in the pro-independence, English-language Taipei Times (11/7):  "Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi recently carried out the third and most extensive Cabinet reshuffle of his team.  Among the 14 new members, nine of them are members of the pro-Taiwan Japan-ROC Diet Members’ Consultative Council--the highest number ever....  From that observation we can draw the following conclusions.  First, Japan’s tilt toward the U.S. is not necessarily a tilt toward Taiwan....  Japan’s pro-U.S. policy is only a result of its concern about its homeland security.  Second, being tough does not necessarily mean being anti-China.  After Koizumi came to power, Japan has replaced its cautious and fearful attitude toward China with a tougher diplomatic line....  But this does not mean that Tokyo wants to fight against Beijing or compete with it for a dominant role.  Finally, being anti-China does not necessarily equate with being pro-Taiwan....  Therefore, we have to break away from our old thinking and myths about Taiwan-Japan relations in the post-Koizumi era, and throw away unrealistic expectations of the Japanese government.  This is the only way for us to avoid wishful thinking about Japan."


"A Japan That Can Say 'Let's Go'"


The English-language Taipei Times commented (Internet version, 11/2):  "On Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi reshuffled his cabinet, while Washington and Tokyo on Saturday reached an agreement over realigning U.S. forces stationed in Japan, as well as expanding cooperation between the U.S. military and the Japan Self Defense Force.  As Japan continues its steady march towards becoming a 'normal' member of the global community, Taiwan has everything to gain from maintaining a robust and balanced relationship with Tokyo.  Critics are wont to describe Japan's efforts to take more responsibility for regional security as a 'resurgence' of militarism, but the truth is that the days when Tokyo could survive by buying its way out of security commitments are long gone....  And although Chinese ultra-nationalists and their 'Greater China' lackeys rant about Japan's history of military aggression in World War II, these critics would do well to remember that it is China that has fought in four international conflicts since 1945--against South Korea and the UN, India, the Soviet Union and Vietnam--and is now the world's most rapidly modernizing military power. The facts simply do not indicate a resurgence of Japanese imperialism.   But they do indicate a healthy skepticism about the intentions of the authoritarian regimes in Beijing and Pyongyang....  What the region needs is not a spineless Japan, but an alliance of democracies that have real clout to ensure that regional conflicts remain the responsibility of diplomats, not generals."


JAPAN:  "Cabinet Reshuffle:  Concern Over Asia Diplomacy"


The liberal Asahi editorialized (11/1):  "Monday's cabinet reshuffle made clear Prime Minister Koizumi's firm determination to continue his reform initiatives and wrap them up during his remaining year in office.  What is disturbing, though, is the cabinet's foreign policy lineup.  We cannot help but have grave doubts as to whether this cabinet can get Japan's Asia diplomacy back on track....  Newly appointed Foreign Minister Aso drew criticism from South Korea and other nations for the speech he made as the chief LDP policymaker in 2003 in which he gave the audience the impression that during Japan's occupation of South Korea, South Koreans actively sought Japanese family names....  In an interview with a monthly magazine this past summer, Mr. Aso suggested that he would visit Yasukuni Shrine even if he becomes prime minister....   Though he may be more cautious in his remarks from now on, we do not believe he is the right person to mend Japan's thorny relations with neighboring countries. The new Chief Cabinet Secretary Abe, another possible successor to PM Koizumi, suggested during his first press conference Monday evening as chief GOJ spokesman that he would continue to visit the war-related shrine.  Even under the Koizumi administration, chief cabinet secretaries and foreign ministers have refrained from visiting Yasukuni Shrine for diplomatic reasons....  The Koizumi approach of trumpeting reform at home while turning a blind eye to the diplomatic stalemate in Asia will continue for one more year.  We are gravely concerned about the damage this may cause."    


"Facing Crises At Home And Abroad"


An editorial in the top-circulation, moderate Yomiuri asked (11/1):  "How should Japan respond to the crises it faces at home and abroad?  Japan now stands at a major crossroads. The Koizumi cabinet should speed up reforms before it is too late.  PM Koizumi launched his third cabinet, appointing three prospective successors--Shinzo Abe, Sadakazu Tanigaki, and Taro Aso--to key ministerial posts.  Koizumi appointed Fukushiro Nukaga, said to be a possible prime minister, as Japan Defense Agency director general, a post he held once before....  These hopefuls will compete on reform by faithfully performing their duties.  People who want to be the political leader of a country, however, should compete on their future vision for Japan and how they intend to create a strategy for realizing it....  The prime minister told Aso that strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance was the top foreign policy priority....  Japan should further strengthen ties with the U.S. to counter China's bid for hegemony in Asia.... Clouds loom on the horizon for U.S.-Japan relations, though, as the U.S. Senate moves to impose sanctions on Japan over Tokyo's continuing ban on U.S. beef imports.  Japan should pursue strategic diplomacy based on national interests that will not harm the U.S.-Japan alliance.   

"Don't Read Too Much Into Neighboring Countries' Quiet Reaction To Yasukuni Visit"


An editorial in the liberal Asahi observed (10/28): "South Korean Foreign and Trade Minister Ban visited Japan and met with Foreign Minister Machimura.  Today, Ban will make a courtesy call on Prime Minister Koizumi.  Following Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni Shrine, the South Korean foreign minister had decided to cancel his trip to Tokyo on the grounds that a visit to Japan would not be appropriate, but he later retracted his early decision and came.  In addition to Ban's decision to visit to Tokyo, the city of Seoul remains calm and composed.  There have been no reports of anti-Japanese demonstrations similar to those held this past spring in China, which has rejected a visit by Foreign Minister Machimura.  We would like to breathe a sigh of relief over the quiet reactions in China and South Korea concerning Koizumi's latest visit to Yasukuni Shrine.  Foreign Minister Ban did not come to Tokyo just to shake hands; he visited Japan because he thought it more advisable for him to directly inform Koizumi of South Korea's anger and its basic position against the visit to Yasukuni rather than canceling in protest....  China and South Korea continue to take a hard-line stance on Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni, seeing them as having a negative impact on trade, sightseeing, and other areas of contact.  The fact that there has been no formal meeting between the Japanese and Chinese leaders over the past four years is serious.  There is no prospect for a Japan-China summit while Koizumi is in office.  It is also not certain if there will be a Japan-ROK summit.  The media in Singapore and Malaysia, as well as in Europe and the U.S., expressed criticism and concern over Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni.  U.S. House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Hyde sent PM Koizumi a letter in which he reportedly said it would be regrettable if the visit obstructed dialogue in Asia."   


"Japanese Reacts Calmly to Prime Minister's Yasukuni Visit"


An editorial in the conservative Sankei observed (10/25):  "South Korea, which threatened to cancel a bilateral foreign ministerial meeting in protest of Prime Minister Koizumi's recent visit to Yasukuni Shrine, has told Japan that Foreign Minister Ban will visit Tokyo at the end of this month for the talks, as originally planned.  The Japanese people did not overreact to Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni Shrine, and the nation's diplomatic relations with East Asia did not deteriorate to the extent that much of the media had predicted.  In their editorials on October 19, the day after the prime minister's visit, all the dailies, with the exception of the Sankei, were critical....  China and South Korea are not the only countries in Asia.  Indonesian President Yudhoyono said in a June meeting with Acting Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Abe that it is only natural for the prime minister to visit the shrine and pray for the souls of those who fought and died for the country.  Japan must pursue its Asia diplomacy with a wider view that includes Southeast Asia, Southwest Asia, and Oceania.  It is said that 'continuity' is strength.  Prime Minister Koizumi has revived the custom of going to Yasukuni, which had been discontinued due to protests from China and South Korea, and has visited the shrine for five straight years.  Whoever Koizumi's successor is, he or she should continue to visit the shrine and work to build relationships with China and South Korea in which neither country can use Yasukuni as a diplomatic card."       

"Is Backlash From China And South Korea In The National Interest?"


The liberal Mainichi observed (10/18):  "On Monday, Prime Minister Koizumi visited Yasukuni Shrine....  It is believed he chose to do so in mid-October because the diplomatic fallout would be relatively slight at present, given that November and December include President Bush's planned visit to Japan, an APEC summit, and South Korean President Roh's planned visit to Japan.  We have been opposed to Prime Minister Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni in view of the harm it could cause to Japan's diplomatic interests and the fact that there are questions over whether the visits run counter to Article 20 of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion.  We cannot accept the premier's visits even if he has changed the style and carefully chosen the timing....  Whenever the prime minister visits Yasukuni, there is a major backlash from neighboring countries, throwing the foreign-policy apparatus into confusion.  How will the prime minister fulfill his responsibility for rebuilding Japan's stagnant Asia diplomacy?"           


"Is This The Result Of A 'Proper Decision'?"


The business-oriented Nihon Keizai editorialized (10/18):  "Following Prime Minister Koizumi's Monday visit to Yasukuni Shrine, there are concerns that Japan's diplomatic relations with neighboring nations, including China and South Korea, will further deteriorate....  It is important to express sincere gratitude to the war dead, and we would not oppose visits to Yasukuni if the shrine were a facility devoted purely to consoling their spirits.  Yasukuni, however, also enshrines Class-A war criminals who did not die in battle, and it justifies the 'Greater East Asia War'....  Japan's ties with China and South Korea are its most important relationships after the U.S.-Japan alliance.  Worsened relations work against Japan's national interest.  Efforts should be made to prevent strained political ties from adversely affecting economic relations and private exchanges among the three countries....  With an APEC summit in November and an East Asia summit in December, we are approaching a turning point for diplomacy in the region.  The prime minister has a responsibility to at least contain the damage caused by his visits to Yasukuni."       


"Japan Lacks Viewpoint Concerning Its Role"


Masaru Honda observed in liberal Asahi (10/18): "It is certain that Prime Minister Koizumi did not visit Yasukuni Shrine in support of the so-called 'Yasukuni historical viewpoint,' which glorifies Japan's involvement in past wars.  Perhaps he was tempted to visit the shrine to play the 'history card' in protest against China's strident opposition to Japan's bid to become a permant member of the UN Security Council.  Regardless of his personal view, though, the visit could cause distrust and tension to spiral in East Asia.  Nationalism is now sweeping the region....  China, which has taken the lead both politically and economically, is threatening Japan's position.  South Korea is also exploring its national interests, keeping a close watch on Japan and China without being bound by the Washington-Tokyo-Seoul framework....  Japan must draw on its wisdom to halt this 'negative spiral.'  Japan's most urgent diplomatic priority is to elaborate on its conception of an East Asia that will co-exist with the United States and form a strategy for cooperating with other nations." 

MALAYSIA:  "China Should Take Leading Role In Handling Bilateral Ties With Japan"


Government-influenced Chinese-language Sin Chew Daily ran the following commentary (10/27):  "In designing both short-term and long-term policy on Japan, Chinese leaders should take a leading role rather than be led by Japan and only responding to Japan's reaction towards China passively.  There is no need for China to treat Koizumi nicely or tolerate his behavior any longer.  Whenever the opportunity arises, China should strike back.  Chinese leaders should, for example, at some international forums give Koizumi the 'cold shoulder' to downgrade Koizumi's international reputation.  China should also use propaganda techniques through diplomacy to let Japanese society know that China is against Koizumi's attitude but not angry with the Japanese community at large.  As for long-term economic strategy, China should open up more opportunities for U.S. and European businesses to invest in China in order to counter-pressure the Japanese government through Japanese corporations in China.  The 'normalization' process of Sino-Japan ties should be one that is freed from historical burden now.  The Japanese government should be made to understand that when bilateral political ties are cold, so will be bilateral economic ties."


"Faults Koizumi For Failure To Improve Relations With Neighboring Countries"


Government-influenced Chinese-language Nanyang Siang Pau editorialized (10/19):  "Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi has chosen the touch-down day of China's Shenzhou 6 to visit the Yasukuni Shrine for the fifth time since he became the national leader.  The obstinate attitude of Koizumi has triggered Beijing calling off the visit of Japanese foreign minister to China.  South Korea has also announced that Seoul will no longer want to engage in further talks with Tokyo on North Korea's nuclear weapons issue.  The worsening Sino-Japan and Japan-South Korea relationship triggered by Koizumi will definitely cool off the economic growth among these three countries.  When the Osaka high court has already declared Koizumi's Yasukuni Shrine visit as unconstitutional and with the leading opposition party in Japan opposing the repeat visit of Koizumi to the Yasukuni Shrine, there is indeed no reason why Koizumi should continue to do this except trying to glorify his own heroic image in the eyes of the ring-wing conservatives.  The unwise decision of Koizumi has lost many golden opportunities for Japan to improve its diplomatic ties with its neighboring countries.  The anti-Japanese sentiment can hurt Japanese firms operating in China too.  Besides, we also do not agree with many of the actions taken by Japan in recent months.  Japan's threat to reduce annual subscription given to UN after its bid for the UNSC seat failed and Japan's open support for the China threat theory mooted by Washington can only lower Japan's status as a great nation.  The main reason why Japan cannot improve its relations with either China or Korea is because Japan cannot face its past history squarely."


"Concern Over Growth Of Right Wing Conservative Movement in Japan"


Leading independent Chinese-language daily Kwong Wah Jit Poh had this to say (10/19):  "Asian nations have again protested and condemned the fifth visit of Koizumi's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine where Class-A war criminals of World War II are enshrined.  Although the people in Southeast Asia have repeatedly protested the offensive attitude of the Japanese government, we regret that until now the Japanese government has failed to sensitize with the hurt feelings of the countries it had invaded.  The obvious intention of the Japanese government in reviving its militant ideology can cause severe damage to Asia as well as to the world in our effort to build peace and stability.  The expansion of the right-wing conservative movement in Japan is worrisome.  Koizumi's repeat visit to the Shrine for political gain can only aggravate and encourage the growth of the conservative movement in Japan.  The fifth shrine visit by Koizumi will surely affect the trade relationship between Japan and Asian countries."


SINGAPORE:  "Beijing Cool About Reshuffle, Stresses Bilateral Ties" 


China bureau chief Chua Chin Hon commented in the pro-government Straits Times (Internet version, 11/2):  "China yesterday reacted coolly to Japan's Cabinet reshuffle, saying that it continued to value bilateral relations.  Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan declined to comment on the specific appointment of several hardliners to the new Japanese Cabinet, such as Mr. Shinzo Abe who has vowed to continue visiting the controversial Yasukuni war shrine....  Though the U.S. will cut its forces significantly in Okinawa, Japan has committed to expanding the cooperation and training of its defense forces with American troops....  Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi maintained on Monday that the U.S.-Japan alliance was 'indispensable to maintaining peace.'"


SOUTH KOREA:  "Reopening Old Wounds"


The independent Joong-Ang Ilbo editorialized (11/2):  “Although the cabinet reshuffle is a Japanese domestic political issue, the cabinet appointments [placing ultra-rightists in key posts] are disappointing because Japan’s neighbors have reacted violently to the country’s distortion of history and politicians’ visits to the Yasukuni Shrine.  They have become factors that threaten peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia.  We cannot help but suspect that the Japanese might be digging into old wounds to aggravate them....  This kind of behavior by Japan threatens the peace in Northeast Asia and the whole world.  It is likely that during this cabinet’s term, Japan’s peace constitution will be reduced to one in name only and the Self-Defense Forces of Japan will be converted into a regular army.  Taking this as an excuse, China might pursue military hegemony, making Northeast Asia a battleground between it and Japan.  More immediately, Japan might be more rigid and uncooperative in the next round of the Six-Party Talks on North Korea’s nuclear programs and it may openly neglect its neighbors while strengthening its alliance with the U.S.…  It is high time to closely watch Japan’s diplomatic course of action.”


"Koizumi Government Becoming 'Antagonistic Toward Asia'"


The nationalist, left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun editorialized (11/2):  “By carrying out this cabinet reshuffle, Mr. Koizumi has made it clear that he will orbit thoroughly around the U.S., even at the expense of sacrificing relations with Asia.  When appointing two ultra-rightists Shinzo Abe and Taro Aso as chief cabinet secretary and foreign minister, respectively, Mr. Koizumi allegedly asserted that hardliners are better at foreign affairs.  In this regard, you can guess what the future of Japan’s foreign policy toward Asia is going to be....  Furthermore, given that Messrs. Abe and Aso are Japan’s most representative hardliners toward North Korea and have been calling for economic sanctions against Pyongyang, it is highly likely that their appointments will have a negative impact on the Six-Party Talks set to reopen this month and on negotiations to establish diplomatic relations between the two countries.  It seems like the tone of Japan’s foreign policy toward Asian countries, including China and the Korean Peninsula, is moving beyond discord and disregard and toward antagonism.”


"Koizumi’s Cabinet Reshuffle Far from Promoting Friendship With Neighbors"


The independent Dong-a Ilbo editorialized (11/1):  “Far from reflecting on Japan’s past history and promoting friendship with neighboring countries, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has carried out a cabinet reshuffle that has placed outspoken ultra-conservatives in top positions.  In particular, we are concerned that Mr. Koizumi has appointed former Internal Affairs Minister Taro Aso, who was at the forefront of beautifying Japan's invasions and colonial rules in the past and openly advocated a hard-line position against the ROK and China, as foreign minister....  This Japanese move, coupled with its approval last week of a new draft Constitution that calls for possessing a self defense military, is making us wonder where Japan is headed....  We cannot help but conclude that the Koizumi regime has determined to push a hard-line diplomatic and military policy vis-à-vis Asia even if such a move further aggravates its relations with the ROK and Japan.”


"Koizumi Bets All For Fleeting Gain"


Nationalist Chosun Ilbo (Internet version, 11/1):  "Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, in his Cabinet reshuffle on Monday, named of all people Taro Aso as his foreign minister, a man best known here for claiming it was Koreans who asked to be given Japanese names in the colonial era, not the Japanese who forced them.  In another masterstroke, Koizumi also appointed Shinzo Abe, an outspoken right-winger and North Korea hawk, as his chief Cabinet secretary and government spokesman.  That means several core posts in the government are now taken by politicians who make a regular habit of worshipping at the Yasukuni Shrine, where Japan honors its war criminals.  It is as clear as day that Japan's diplomatic relations with Korea are headed for a new ice age.  Yet there was Koizumi, saying the new lineup would help Japan's relations with foreign countries....  In other words, Koizumi is ignoring even the minimum courtesy required in diplomacy between two countries.  That is why many here feel the appointment is tantamount to severing diplomatic ties with Korea.  The fault lies with the Koizumi government's blinkered abuse of foreign relations as a tool of domestic politics.  In the wake of the Liberal Democratic Party's overwhelming victory in the lower house elections, a Japanese media outlet said, 'China caused the Koizumi typhoon'? meaning anti-Japanese protests in China provoked a resurgent nationalism in the island country.  Koizumi and his men will of course gain some short-term benefit from sacrificing the country's long-term ties with its immediate neighbors on the altar of securing their support base at home.  But in diplomacy, tact is needed to achieve peaceful coexistence that advances the interests of nations while fostering the self-esteem of their partners abroad....  If Koizumi disregards it, and alienates Asia for short-term domestic gain, he jettisons both."


"U.S. Also Tired Of The Shrine"


The independent Joong-Ang Ilbo editorialized (10/25):  "At the root of the attitudes of the Japanese leadership [as they insist on paying homage at the controversial Yasukuni Shrine that honors war criminals] lies the thinking that as long as Japan keeps a strong alliance with the U.S., there is no need to study the mood of other Northeast Asian countries.  This is why Japan ignores its neighbors and only pays attention to U.S. protection.  Now the U.S. is intervening in the affairs of Japan, [as evidenced by a recent letter by Rep. Henry Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, to the Japanese ambassador to the U.S. criticizing Mr. Koizumi’s visit to the controversial shrine and by U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer’s expression of concerns over such a visit.]  The U.S. does not want to strain its relations with the ROK and China for the sake of its relations with Japan.  In particular, there is no reason for Washington to side with Japan despite the historically proven crime of the Japanese invasions.  Tokyo must understand why Washington has decided to give a strong warning to Japan, breaking the silence it has maintained so far.  Japan should not open the wounds of its neighbors again."


"A Series Of U.S. Officials Voice Objections To Shrine Visit"


The pro-government Seoul Shinmun editorialized (10/24):  "A series of key U.S. officials and news outlets is criticizing Tokyo for paying controversial visits to the Yasukuni Shrine that honors war criminals.  This U.S. move can be seen as signaling that Washington now sees that discord between the ROK, China, and Japan over Japanese officials’ visits to the Yasukuni Shrine can undermine U.S. national interests, beyond sharing the [ROK and China’s] view that it is unjust for Japanese officials to make such controversial visits.  Furthermore, the U.S. move can be interpreted as indicating Washington’s willingness to step up diplomatic efforts to ensure stability in Northeast Asia.  Tokyo should take this U.S. criticism as a warning that if it continues to insist on visiting the controversial shrine, it would inevitably be further isolated from the international community."


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