This was Junichiro Koizumi’s third visit there
Hardly Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had the time to calm down after his visit to Russia, when he astounded both the Japanese and the world societies with visiting Yasukuni Shrine. This shrine was originally meant to be a monument to 2.5 million Japanese men, who died during World War II. Yet, it became the symbol of Samurai militarism, since there were signs in memory of Japan’s 14 major war criminals in the shrine, including war-era Prime Minister Hideki Tojo. What did Junichiro Koizumi mediate about in Yasukuni Shrine? Maybe, he had a mind conversation with the spirit of that war criminal? Maybe, he told him that Japan was about to get its South Kurile islands back? Those are the islands, where Japan prepared its attack on Pearl Harbor, by the way.
It is worth mentioning here that the majority of the Japanese high-ranking officials tried to stay away from Yasukuni Shrine, taking care of their own reputation. Only three ministers have ventured to honor the killed Japanese soldiers since 1978, Koizumi is one of the three. To crown it all, it is Koizumi’s third visit to the shrine.
This action of the Japanese prime minister caused harsh diplomatic reactions on the part of China and South Korea. Taiwan set out its protest about it too. Russia has not said a word yet.
"It's the new year, and I'm going to pay my respects with a fresh perspective, to think about peace and hope we will never have war again,” Koizumi told reporters. South Korea Foreign ministry had a reaction of its own: “We feel rage and great disappointment that Japan's top government official once again paid tribute at the Yasukuni shine, which is the symbol of Japan's past militarism. Our government cannot understand the logic of those who say they pray for peace, but pay tribute to war criminals who destroyed peace."
A Chinese foreign Ministry official stated: “It hurts the feelings of the Chinese people and other Asian countries," she said. "We urge the Japanese government to treat seriously the issue with the correct attitude."
China’s major newspaper, the People’s Daily wrote today, that Koizumi’s two previous visits to the shrine caused harsh denunciations on the part of respectable people of Japan and its neighboring countries. The newspaper wrote that the prime minister of Japan could not but know that another action like that would cause the same reaction. Yet, Koizumi did his own way, without paying any attention to the previous experience. The People’s Daily concluded that Koizumi’s third visit to Yasukuni Shrine ended up in even more damage to Japan’s image on the international level.
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov