It’s the shrine, stupid!

The US is getting annoyed at Japan’s intransigence when it comes to that place.

A top U.S. diplomat voiced frustration with Japan’s strained relationship with its Asian neighbours, saying Tokyo’s spats over history with China and South Korea could undercut American interests in Asia.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s appearance at the Asia-Pacific Economic (APEC) forum was clouded by the historical animosity he rekindled with his repeated visits to a shrine for war dead where convicted war criminals are also honored.

Christopher Hill, Assistant U.S. Secretary of State, told university students from APEC countries on Saturday that the chill between American ally Japan and its neighbours had gone on long enough.

“We want Japan to have a good relationship with China,” he said. “And it’s a little frustrating to us, to the U.S., how bad the relationship has become between Japan and China over these historical issues.”

Hill said that while the United States has a deepening relationship with Japan, Tokyo’s strained relationship with its neighbours could spell trouble for Washington as well.

“It doesn’t help us that when we have relations with Japan, people think, ‘aha, that’s an anti-Chinese move’,” he added. “That’s not in our interest.

“So we would like to see that situation between Japan and China, and Japan and Korea, calm down.”

In unusually blunt words, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun told Koizumi during a meeting on Friday on the sidelines of APEC that Seoul was not interested in more apologies, but wanted to see visits to Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni shrine cease.

China rebuffed Japanese overtures for a bilateral summit during APEC and Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing compared Koizumi’s Yasukuni homages to a German leader’s paying tribute to the Nazis.

This is one of those festering wounds, like Palestinians and Israel, Al Qaeda and non-Moslems, pro-lifers and pro-choicers – the differences seem so irreconcilable, there’s absolutely no sense of hope. The solution can only come when there is one of those “magical moments” in history we occasionally witness (the end of Apartheid, the fall of the Berlin Wall) when minds open and a true breakthrough occurs. But considering how entrenched the two parties are in their respective positions, I can’t be too optimistic.

I keep hoping Koizumi will have a come-to-Jesus moment when he realizes just how bad a mistake his vists are. Maybe this pressure from America will help expedite his long-awaited epiphany…?

The Discussion: 15 Comments

Just a techincality: If you want a better term for “come-to-Jesus-moment”, the word is “Damascene (moment)”, referring to the moment on the road to Damascus when Saint Paul (reportedly) experienced scales falling from his eyes.

“epiphany” is not such an appropriate word here, as it refers to light (or bits of flame, representing the holy spirit) landing on top of someone’s head to inspire him to speak for God. That’s too much to expect of Koizumi at this time – however a “Damascene” moment refers to when you realize how much you’ve been f—ing up and then you stop being such an asshole. 🙂

November 20, 2005 @ 7:52 am | Comment

I have learned something today. Thanks!

November 20, 2005 @ 8:28 am | Comment


Aren’t you mixing elements of early Christian symbology? The bits of flame you reference I think were those that landed on the disciples’ heads just prior to their glossolallic experience in the Upper Room.

The Damascene moment on the Road to Tarsus (precursor to the Bob Hope/Bing Crosby movies) was indeed an epiphany. But epiphany is not defined by little bits of light dancing above the disciples’ heads. Epiphany occurred when the Magi accepted the manifiestation of Christ to the gentiles.

Personally, my recent moments of epiphany occur when I step down on the tines of the garden rake, get slammed by the handle in the forehead, and have the sudden realization my father was right about placing the tines toward the wall.


November 20, 2005 @ 9:11 am | Comment

Was the Berlin Wall really a ‘minds opening’ or more the West just winning outright?

Speaking of come-to-Jesus moments, Jimmy Carter tried to get South Korean Presidictator Park Chung-hee to convert to Christianity in the late 1970s…

November 20, 2005 @ 11:03 am | Comment

So the Japanese attache to the embassy in london or something (might have been the ambassador?) came to cambridge the other day and said (although this isn’t attributable to him, japan, or the embassy, apparently, from the statement they made in the beginning) that Japan might soon be willing to build another shrine and move the war dead to it, leaving the war criminals at Yasukuni.

interesting, no?

November 20, 2005 @ 12:42 pm | Comment

We had a thread about this very topioc recently. Most readers said they’d never do it, as the burial site land itself is so sacred. Dare we hope?

November 20, 2005 @ 3:27 pm | Comment

Was the Berlin Wall really a ‘minds opening’ or more the West just winning outright?

Someone told the E. German soldiers who guard the wall – famously trigger-happy and ruthless – not to shoot. That’s what I call a magical moment in history, although there are scores (hundreds?) of reasons behind it.

November 20, 2005 @ 3:31 pm | Comment

Saul of Tarsus was on the road to Damascus to persecute some Christians when he had his epiphany: He was blinded by a bright light and heard God asking him why he (Saul, soon to become St Paul) was persecuting Him (God) so much. On arriving in Damascus he went to a Christian’s house on the Street Called Straight (surely Straight Street is an easier name?) where he converted, was blessed by the other believers, and scales fell out of his eyes, allowing him to see again.

As for Koizumi, well, we have a precedent for far more dramatic changes of heart…..

November 21, 2005 @ 2:50 am | Comment

Richard, hoping for Koizumi to see the “error of his ways”, is like hoping for Hu Jintao to bring in multi-party democracy – it would be nice if it happened, but it isn’t going to happen.

“Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing compared Koizumi’s Yasukuni homages to a German leader’s paying tribute to the Nazis.”

This is the problem I have with the Chinese. They feel the need to be completely hysterical over Yasukuni, as can be seen by the large numbers of newspaper columns continually crying “wolf” over Japan’s rising “nationalism”. If they actually acted with restraint I might back them up. As it is, they’re as much a bunch of big babies as the LDP are both need to grow up!

November 22, 2005 @ 1:54 pm | Comment

“As it is, they’re as much a bunch of big babies as the LDP are both need to grow up!”

*should be*

As it is, they’re as much a bunch of big babies as the LDP are – both need to grow up!

November 22, 2005 @ 1:55 pm | Comment

The Japanese will never replace the Yasukuni with another shrine. it has been suggested to them many times before. Yasukuni is a symbol of nationalism and imperialism for the Jap. With the rising nationalism and the return of militarism in Japan fanned by the right wing politicians i bet the Japanese will soon change their history text book to say that the war was a result of the Chinese provocation and Korea was a break away province of Japan!

November 22, 2005 @ 4:46 pm | Comment

ming – hey, believe what you will, but it apparently is being mentioned in the diplomatic circles of the Japanese foreign service at the University of Cambridge. that’s more reliable than any other information I ever get about Japan

November 23, 2005 @ 3:22 am | Comment

It’s not “the shrine stupid”. China needs to demonize Japan for domestic and international political reasons (to fan nationalism and marginalize its Asian rival, respectively). While the shrine visits are regretable, even had they never occured, China would continue to flog this particular horse.

November 23, 2005 @ 5:28 am | Comment

what bs,

do u happen to know that japan offered written apologies to south korea and holland but pointedly ignore china, its worst victim of wwii.?

do u know that the spy plane that knocked down a chinese jet operate from japan?

do u know that japan proudly announced to china that under the us japan defence pact, it has the “right” to patrol the taiwan straits and that taiwan is under its protection?
do u know how galling this must be to the chinese — japan was the one who robbed taiwan at gun point in 1899?

would u “forgive” someone who keep screwing you even when he is saying sorry, comrade?


November 23, 2005 @ 10:22 am | Comment

Hey Denk
Why Should Japan apolgise to the Chinese whom they consider subhuman????? Teir reasons to invade China was to bring civiliasation to the primitive race!!

November 26, 2005 @ 9:09 pm | Comment

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