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    Aso on Yasukuni Shrine (again)

    I try not to get all neurotic about linking to every article that refers to one of my pet issues, so usually I don’t do anything with the short blurbs of which the Nikkei posts a lot. Sometimes little stories are telling, though:

    Minister of Foreign Affairs Taro Aso addressed a press conference after a 13 January cabinet meeting, stating clearly that “There hasn’t been a single moment when I’ve thought that the Yasukuni Shrine pilgrimage issue should be a point of contention” in relation to the LDP party presidential election in September.

    In response to Prime Minister Jun’ichiro Koizumi’s declaration that it “will be a major element in whether [a candidate] can win (the presidential election),” Aso stated, “I don’t think there’s anyone who has quite that much confidence (in the election). What will be a major factor (in the election) is whether [a candidate] has the kind of language that can speak directly to the citizenry.”

    Of course, they could both be right: Yasukuni may not be brought up explicitly often, but its presence as an issue could be felt in the background of debates over how Japan should deal with the friction that arises with its neighbors. Of course, Aso has a few reasons to downplay the Yasukuni issue. For one thing, he’s on record as having dismissed Chinese and Korean protests over the pilgrimages as, essentially, their own odd little hangups. To be fair, as comes out in the interview linked in that last sentence, his reasoning isn’t quite as cavalier as it might seem–his point, that Japan’s offering reasons for continued pilgrimages by politicians only helps keep the discussion going around in circles, is not without basis. At the same time, it also seems reasonable to conjecture that the shrine might not be such a bone of contention were the textbook issue not there to amplify it. For another thing, he himself is one of the top contenders for LDP presidency post-Koizumi. Making a big deal out of the issue on which his pronouncements as foreign minister have been most controversial is hardly in his best interest.

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