Yasukuni Shrine will not separate Class-A war criminals from the ranks of Japan’s war dead honored there, because the outcome of the Tokyo war crimes tribunal that convicted them remains controversial, officials from the Shinto shrine have said in a written statement.
“This is a matter of Japanese religious faith. . . . Their separate enshrinement will never happen,” they said in response to questions from Kyodo News.
Yasukuni’s flat rejection of a proposal to separate 14 Class-A war criminals — including wartime Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo — from Japan’s 2.5 million war dead comes as Japan’s ties with China and South Korea remain tense due to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s repeated visits to the Tokyo shrine.
Japan’s Asian neighbors see Yasukuni, particularly with the war criminals enshrined there, as symbolic of unrepentant nationalism and regard visits to it by government leaders as insensitive and insulting.
Removing the 14 people from the ranks of the war dead enshrined at Yasukuni has frequently been suggested by lawmakers as a possible solution to the diplomatic row.
The statement attributed the shrine’s rejection to “lingering objections” voiced by some experts on international law over the validity of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East after World War II.
It also said the Diet unanimously adopted a resolution in 1953 denying the existence of “war criminals” in Japan in connection with World War II.
The shrine officials said that as a result of revisions from 1953 to 1955 to laws concerning government relief for families of the war dead, the government began treating convicted war criminals the same as the nation’s war dead.
Noting that Nobusuke Kishi, once arrested as a Class-A war criminal but later released without indictment, went on to become prime minister from 1957 to 1960, the statement said, “There was no recognition of war criminals among the Japanese at all.”
In view of Japan’s troubled ties with China and South Korea, even some lawmakers from Koizumi’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party have proposed separating the war criminals.
Hidenao Nakagawa, chairman of the LDP’s Diet Affairs Committee, expressed hope late last month that Yasukuni would make such a move through discussions with the families of the war criminals.
Shingo Oyama, chief of Yasukuni’s public relations office, said that although there have been inquiries by the government and the LDP, the shrine has received no specific requests for the separate enshrinement of the Class-A war criminals.
Koizumi has visited the shrine once a year since taking office in April 2001. He last visited it on New Year’s Day, 2004.
He has repeatedly said his visits are aimed at paying tribute to Japan’s war dead, not to the Class-A war criminals.
Yasukuni enshrined the 14 war criminals in 1978.
China says words are insufficient to show Japan’s atonement for various atrocities it committed during the war and has urged Koizumi to show his atonement through action.
The Japan Times: June 5, 2005