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Japanese Prime Minister Just Says NO to Yasukuni Shrine

August 10, 2009

Background: Yasukuni Shrine is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) diplomatic challenges that Japan has with its neighbors. The shrine exclusively celebrates the Japanese war dead, so naturally when an anniversary of a war comes up the prime minister needs to look patriotic and pay homage to fallen soldiers. The problem is that those fallen soldiers, to neighbors such as China and Korea, also include Class A war criminals that tortured and killed their people. Every prime minister in recent years that has visited the shrine has ended up getting key diplomatic missions cancelled, and on a more extreme level countries will shut off economic and political negotiations entirely.

Prime Minister Aso today commented on Yasukuni, in the background of the anniversary of the end of WWII coming up on August 15th. Each newspaper had a different take on the event.

Nikkei “I’m Against Visiting Yasukuni While in Office” On the evening of August 10th at the Prime Minister’s residence, Prime Minister Aso stated in regards to the anniversary on the 15th of WWII: “It’s a mistake to mix up the confusion of the election and paying homage to fallen soldiers. I think politics and the media should be placed far away from this process. I would like to pray in a quieter spot.”

The second paragraph states Aso’s intentions since the budget meeting last year in October. The Nikkei claims that although the Prime Minister said, “I don’t have to answer if I will go to Yasukuni or not,” sources from the Nikkei claim that his advisors around him stated he had decided he wouldn’t go during his term in office.

So for the Nikkei the Prime Minister is following his past promises. Although they did mention that one of his cabinet members had paid money to the shrine this year in April.

Asahi “The Prime Minister Expresses Thoughts about not Going to Yasukuni” The Asahi had a more critical approach to the events on the evening of August 10th. Unlike the Nikkei, the Asahi skipped the Prime Minister’s commentary, and instead decided to focus on comments made to the newspaper in the year 2006. At that time the Prime Minister said, “Giving contributions to Yasukuni would set a bad precedent. It would politicize this process of praying for the war dead.”

They then drilled the Prime Minister on this issue, stating that he had given contributions earlier this year to Yasukuni in April. His reply was “I think politics and the media should be placed far away from this process.”

The Asahi’s trying to paint the Prime Minister as a flip flopper, who could possibly go back on his word again and maybe even visit the shrine this August 15th. The Nikkei however tried to show the Prime Minister as following a policy that he had instituted last year in October.

Yomiuri “Buried by a mudslide in Oita Prefecture” The Yomiuri didn’t have any political commentary on the Prime Minister’s speech and instead decided to focus on the mudslide in Oita prefecture. Japan has had record rainfall, at 69.5mm in one hour on August 10th. At about 7pm a mudslide buried 5 cars, one car was sent into a river, and four drivers are currently attempting to be rescued from their cars covered in mud.

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