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Stoking the fires of the far-right

RICHARD STONE on the logic behind the Japanese PM's increasingly militaristic overtones

While most Western countries were celebrating traditional Christmas festivities, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made an official visit to a controversial war shrine in Tokyo.

There was a great deal more to the visit than merely showing respect for about two-and-a-half-million spirits estimated to be honoured within the shrine. It also contains remains of war criminals.

The official visit was conducted as an attempt to appease far-right nationalist groupings within Japan, paving the way for the country to revive its militaristic traditional past at the behest of Pentagon military planners and the United States.

The Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo is particularly controversial as it is regarded as housing the spirits of 1,068 Japanese people convicted of war crimes during the fascist and second world war period.

They rest among a total of two-and-a-half-million spirits in the Book of Souls, honoured in Shinto rites.

Fourteen of those convicted of war crimes were also found guilty of particularly heinous offences, categorised as "class A" war crimes.

The controversial event was given full media coverage across Japan, with security services on alert and helicopters hovering overhead.

It was also intended to be viewed within the context of Abe's recent suggestions that Japan should be proud of its history.

Abe is a figure from the right wing of Japanese politics who has built a long-term career on nationalism.

His war memorial visit led to immediate protests from neighbouring countries, including China and the Korean peninsula, two areas where many of the war crimes were committed.

The Chinese publication Global Times urged the government in Beijing to erect statues of Japanese war criminals surrendering and to also blacklist Abe "and other right-wing politicians."

An official statement from South Korean President Park Geun Hye drew attention to "digging up wounds of the past."

Numerous high-ranking political figures in Seoul remain unhappy about Abe's position of denial that Japanese troops forced large numbers of Korean women into sexual servitude during the second world war.

Many ordinary Koreans await a meaningful apology for the brutal human rights abuses of the period.

An official statement from the North Korean Central News Agency based in Pyongyang was perhaps more direct and claimed Abe's war shrine visit was "a declaration of war," adding that "Japan has now turned into a war state deviating to the right and fascism."

The Yasukuni war shrine visit was conducted for politically expedient reasons.

The Abe government is eager to push US foreign policy in the region which is specifically aimed at the containment and encirclement of China, and to rally far-right nationalist support within Japan for dragging the country away from its pacifist constitution.

The rise of China in recent decades had altered the balance of forces across the Asia-Pacific region.

It has had serious implications for so-called "US interests" - defence and security planning implemented in the post-WWII period to provide the US with a hegemonic position.

The US has been forced into a defensive position as China has increased its influence in business, finance and diplomacy.

The numerous recent hostilities, war games and military manoeuvres against China in the South China Seas by Western-backed forces have amounted to much more diplomatic jockeying. They are aimed at specifically containing and encircling China.

Recent diplomatic hostilities between Japan and China over the sensitive Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the South China Seas are just one example of Western-backed forces ignoring sensitive issues dating to the fascist period.

They were grabbed by imperial Japan at the beginning of the empire-building period.

For over 60 years since the end of the second world war Japan has had a pacifist constitution and remained a client-state of the US.

But now this is set to change. Pentagon regional defence and security planning have been revised for a "global transformation of defence and security" plan (GTDS).

It will seek to develop Japan as a fully fledged regional hub in the north, along with Australia in the south, with the specific objective of defending "US interests."

Japanese far-right nationalist groupings have traditionally resented the country having had a pacifist constitution imposed upon it by those who "won" the second world war.

While they have been prevented for decades from openly rallying support, many have remained in highly sensitive and influential administrative positions through traditional military family patronage systems.

Their period of political acquiesce is now drawing to a close as they resurge behind Abe, who, it has been noted, "comes from a sector of Japanese society that does not believe Japan's war-time aggression toward China and south-east Asia was a crime."

It would now appear that Abe is set upon appeasing such people for political expedience.

So far he has used a diplomatic "no comment" in reply to the China Daily, which referred to the war shrine visit as "an intolerable insult" and "slamming the door to dialogue shut."

 

The publication also drew attention to Abe's "nasty track record," including "denial of the aggressive nature of Japanese intrusions during World War II [and] his lack of remorse for Japan's historical sins."

Amid the political furore and opinion polls which indicate Japan is a society undergoing a rapid polarisation, the Abe government issued a press release.

It stated the pacifist constitution would be "amended" by 2020. It continued with the claim that "Japan will have completely restored its status" by that time.

Further claims also specified the present Self-Defence Force will be developed into a fully fledged military.

It's worth noting that noted immediately after Abe's re-election to the office of PM a year ago, praise was quickly forthcoming from US President Barack Obama.

The successful election campaign for the conservative Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, New Komeito, would appear to have been viewed by Washington as strengthening diplomatic relations in favour of the US, for "their interests."

Abe would also appear a man intent on pursuing US regional defence and security planning to its logical conclusion.

No doubt the Pentagon officials who drew up the initial GTDS plans while working directly for then defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld are now clapping their hands in applause as the present Japanese government complies with their objectives.

However the final stages of their planning may prove too dreadful for most sensible people to even contemplate at the present time.

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