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Yasukuni Shrine visit keeps alive the danger of revived Japanese militarism

Written by: (Contributed) on 27 August 2020


The recent visit by a leading Japanese politician to a controversial war-shrine was a calculated and timed attempt to appease the far-right in forthcoming elections in the country and to rally support across the wider region, particularly in South Korea (ROK).

The official visit took place amid wave after wave of US-led militarism, with Japan being the major hub for 'US interests' in the northern part of the region. It has far-reaching implications for Australia which has a similar role in the southern part of the region.

In August, a leading Japanese politician, Shinjiro Koizumi, and three cabinet colleagues visited the Yasukuni war-shrine in Tokyo. (The photo shows a reenactment of Japanese Imperial Army and Navy personnel at the Shrine.)The official parliamentary delegation was high-profile, with Koizumi tipped to be a likely prime minister in due course. Present Japanese PM Shinzo Abe is thought to have serious health problems, and in recent times experienced falling poll ratings leading to questions about his tenure as a long-standing political leader.

The delegation to the war-shrine was also controversial; Yasukuni honours 2.5 million Japanese war dead together with fourteen military generals and politicians convicted of A-class war-crimes, of whom seven were executed.

While Japan's neighbours still condemn the past militarism and its enslavement of millions of people into imperial designs, the far-right continue to applaud their past and remain unrepentant. They also remain a notable force to be reckoned with inside the Japanese political system and military. Koizumi and his three colleagues were seeking to appease the Japanese far-right and rallying their support by appearing at the war-shrine.

US protected Japanese rightists

A study of the Japanese far-right, however, has revealed the hidden hands of the US from the immediate Second World War period to the present-day in a manner similar to that of a puppet-master pulling the strings of playthings. Shortly after the dust settled following the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, the US military occupation forces 'had a change of heart about Japan's war criminals … as the Cold War began … the enemy was no longer the fascists but the communists'. (1) Japan was subsequently economically developed to become the second biggest economy in the world, and a loyal US ally in the northern part of the Asia-Pacific.

The role of the British government during the same period was no better; following the establishment of a Vietnamese National Liberation Committee in Hanoi on 19 August 1945, the British landed an expeditionary force in Vietnam and re-armed the Japanese to make way for the re-establishment of the French colonial administration. (2)

Other revelations about the Japanese far-right include more recent studies conducted on behalf of the US intelligence services which draw attention to their continued obsession and identification with the 'societal goals' of Japan, due to militarism and racial purity which is considered a role model for elsewhere. (3)

With the second Cold War now well under-way, the US now has even more important roles for Japan as a northern hub for 'US interests'. The country has been dislodged into third place by an economically rising China. Japan has also, in effect, shed its pacifist constitution and their military now regularly take part in US-led military exercises. It is also formally linked to Australia as a southern counterpart, to police the vast region.

Three generations on from the end of the Second World War have seen the US and their Japanese allies attempt to erase the legacy of their militarism and war from popular memory.

To say they are re-writing history would be an under-statement; the government of PM Shinzo Abe has already been condemned for attempting 'to put a gloss on Japan's wartime history'. (4)

The fact the recent high-profile visit to the Yasukini war-shrine took place on the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and surrender by the Japanese, remains evidence of a lack of Japanese and their US puppet-masters sensitivities when dealing with the matter. Despite following parliamentary protocol, the delegation to the Yasukini could be better understood along lines of a display of swashbuckling bravado to acknowledge support likely to be forthcoming from the far-right for a future Koizumi challenge for the prime ministership.

Korean implications

Elsewhere, across the region, the matter raised serious questions about the true nature of Japanese diplomacy: relations between Japan and the ROK, 'remain at their lowest point in years' over recent legal verdicts that Japan was liable for compensation for war-time atrocities and the enslavement and forced labour of Korean workers. The fact the ROK was celebrating its liberation from Japanese military occupation at the time further strained relations between the two countries. (5)

ROK politics has undergone a significant change in recent years with the election of President Moon Jae-in and his centre-left administration, keen to develop stronger links with China. The ROK is, in effect, moving away from traditional US-led hegemonic positions; the Pentagon is in the process of considering withdrawing some of their nearly 30,000 military personnel from the country for deployment elsewhere, possibly Guam, which is regarded as more stable and politically compliant.

Such developments have thrown the ROK far-right into disarray; a series of recent corruption trials have seen their chosen leaders and supporters removed from office with some serving prison sentences. They, nevertheless, continue to support pro-US positions and the role of Koizumi and his three parliamentary colleagues has also served their interests well, pushing a far-right line and polarising Korean politics. (6)

With high-level diplomatic talks scheduled to take place very soon between PM Scott Morrison and his Japanese counterpart PM Shinzo Abe, over a 'further broadening and deepening of the defence and security relationship (7):

                                           We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     Inside the League, Scott Anderson and Jon Lee Anderson, (New York, 1986), page 62.

2.     Saigon 45, with the Japs in Vietnam, Phil Kaiserman, (Manchester, 1997), pp. 1-22.

3.     Wikileaks: The Global Intelligence Files, Justiciar Knights, Files released 5543061, Sean Noonan, Tactical Analyst, reveal information about the so-called Knights Templar and their modern-day organisation in a file specifically prepared for the Texas-based global intelligence company, Stratfor, which, in turn, provided intelligence for the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Defence Intelligence Agency. The document is a long-term manifesto composed three specific stages of far-right operation/s:
        Phase One, (1999-2030) cell-based shock attacks;
        Phase Two, (2030-2070) bigger cells/networks armed militias;
        Phase Three, (2070-2100) a coup.   

4.     Academics blast efforts to revise war history, The Age (Melbourne), 11 February 2015; see also, Japan puts disputed islands on school curriculum, The Age (Melbourne), 13 January 2014.

5.     Shinjiro Koizumi and other Japanese ministers visit war-linked Yasukuni, The Japan Times, 15 August 2020; and, ‘We are ready to discuss with Japan', The Korea Post, 18 August 2020.

6.     Inside the League, op.cit., page 11, 47, 51, 5204, 105, 106, 110, 122-30, 239, 263, 266, 271, which provide information about the Korean far-right and front-type organisations including those in the governmental, corporate and religious domains; and, Wikileaks, op.cit., South Korea also features in the far-right 'societal goals' on the basis of it being regarded as a mono-cultural society.  

7.     PM, Abe to deepen ties on defence, Australian, 9 July 2020; and, Morrison, Abe air shared concerns, Australian, 10 July 2020.



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