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安倍晉三(Asahi.com, Yomiuri.co.jp)

Mending ties with China, South Korea pressing issues





As Japan's new prime minister, Shinzo Abe will inherit a stack of foreign policy problems--some of them of Japan's own making.

His most immediate task on the diplomatic front will be to restore Tokyo's tattered ties with Beijing and Seoul. Abe has his work cut out as both China and South Korea suspended summit meetings with Japan to protest annual visits to war-related Yasukuni Shrine by outgoing Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

However, experts on Japan-China relations say Beijing is now ready to improve its ties with Tokyo and is gearing up for one-on-one talks between Abe and President Hu Jintao.

Abe's stance on issues stemming from the World War II period and his insensitivity on Yasukuni Shrine visits could still derail efforts being made by both sides to build a relationship based on trust, analysts say. But Abe has pledged to do just that, stating that his first course of action after becoming prime minister on Tuesday will be to hold summit talks with an Asian leader. Government officials are already working to set up separate summit meetings with Hu and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meeting in November.

Meantime, Beijing has high expectations that bilateral relations will improve, according to Jin Xide, deputy director at the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Jin, who visited Japan in August, said he believes Abe will be more pragmatic than his predecessor and refrain from going to Yasukuni even though he supports such visits. Although Abe secretly visited the Shinto shrine last April, he has refused to be drawn on whether he make further pilgrimages as prime minister.

"The fact that such a diehard Yasukuni enthusiast refuses to make it clear if he will visit the shrine should be viewed as a good sign that he is more realistic than Koizumi,'' Jin said.

During the ruling party's presidential campaign, Abe muddied the waters by saying not all Japanese agree that the 14 Class-A war criminals enshrined at Yasukuni bore sole responsibility for Japan's actions in World War II.

The statement is sharply at odds with China's view of history and undermines a key precondition for normalization of the two countries' diplomatic relations in 1972, said Ichiro Korogi, assistant professor of Chinese studies at Kanda University of International Studies.

In opposing the shrine visits, China still adheres to that logic. For one reason, it is eager not to provoke an extensive backlash from Japanese public over perceptions that the fundamental nature of the shrine is being attacked, Korogi said.

"Despite the domestic risk of provoking a backlash, Beijing is desperate to improve its ties with Tokyo for economic reasons and to use improved diplomacy with Japan as a card in its relationship with the United States,'' Korogi added.

He noted that China's leadership is increasingly taking note of public reaction to events, adding that Abe should not marginalize Beijing by stirring up anti-Japan sentiment by making another visit to Yasukuni.

If Abe meets with Hu and Roh in November, it should work to open the door to continuing mutual visits, said Taku Yamasaki, a former LDP secretary-general.

"To truly open dialogue with continuous summit meetings, a precondition for the new administration will be not to repeat the Yasukuni problem,'' said Yamasaki, who formed an intraparty group on future diplomacy in Asia.

In his campaign for the leadership post, Abe pledged to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance. But this may prove to be as challenging as mending relationships in East Asia, said journalist Ryuichi Teshima, who specializes in Japan-U.S. diplomacy.

On the surface, Japan's ties with Washington are better than ever due mostly to the relationship between Koizumi and U.S. President George W. Bush.

But in Teshima's view, the alliance is showing signs of decay. He cited Washington's reluctance to cooperate with Japan in its failed bid to obtain a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council last summer and the alliance's declining influence in global politics.

He said the two countries have lacked a common strategy in East Asia since the end of Cold War.

"As for the Yasukuni problem, it has the potential to develop into an unpleasant issue with Washington," Teshima said. "By not making any more shrine visits, Abe will prevent Japan from being isolated from the rest of the world."(IHT/Asahi: September 21,2006)

Quotable quotes from an often noncomittal chief Cabinet secretary





On constitutional revision:

"I want to exercise leadership by placing constitutional revision on the political calendar. First, I want to try to pass a bill in the Diet for a national referendum." (Sept. 8)

"This is not an issue that can be resolved in one or two years. We have to think in terms of a time span of about five years." (Sept. 11)

On the right to collective self-defense:

"I think we should thoroughly research individual, concrete scenarios (employed to make the case that the constitutional ban on collective self-defense should be reviewed). There should be discussion on whether a new interpretation of the Constitution is possible." (Sept. 5)

On Yasukuni Shrine:

"If there are devious people who want to turn (Yasukuni) into a diplomatic or political issue, there is no need to declare (if I will visit the shrine)." (Sept. 4)

On Japan's World War II responsibility:

"Much of the Japanese population suffered very dire distress. Much damage was caused to the people of many nations, and they were left with scars. What I recognize is that we have created a peaceful and democratic nation today based on a frank reflection of what was done in the past." (Sept. 7)

On the Chinese government separating Japan's wartime leadership from the Japanese people in explaining to its own population why it was renouncing war reparation claims leading up to the normalization of relations in 1972:

"That may have been what China understood, but I do not believe that is the understanding of Japan in general. No documents remain (to back that claim). When nations normalize relations, I believe the documents exchanged are everything. There are those who call the separating of the Japanese people into two levels a view of history as class struggle." (Sept. 11)

On economic growth:

"It might be possible to exceed the 2.2-percent real economic growth rate targeted by the Koizumi Cabinet and approach a 3-percent rate." (Sept. 6)

On issuing new central government bonds:

"We should endeavor to come in under the level of new bond issuance for fiscal 2006 in the budget for the next fiscal year." (Sept. 6)

On the consumption tax:

"A comprehensive reform of the taxation system will be conducted in fiscal 2009, while considering the fact that the ratio of the basic pension to be covered by the central government will be increased. Debate on the consumption tax should be included in that discussion." (Sept. 8)

On economic policy:

"A declaration saying we have escaped deflation should not be made based on a political judgment. If we have not escaped deflation under the next administration, then every available measure should be mobilized." (Sept. 8)

On allowing postal privatization opponents back into the LDP:

"I myself felt a great deal of hesitancy during the political battle last year over postal privatization. I welcome anyone to join us if there is agreement (between us) on the direction in which to create a new nation." (Sept. 8)

On lessons learned from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi:

"I should learn from (Koizumi's) decision-making in pushing postal privatization and in expressing support for the United States in its war on Iraq." (Sept. 8)

(IHT/Asahi: September 21,2006)










2006年9月18日23時57分  読売新聞)

安倍新総裁「よかった」57% 本社世論調査












 〈調査方法〉 20、21の両日、全国の有権者を対象に「朝日RDD」方式で電話調査をした。対象者の選び方は無作為3段抽出法。有効回答は1062人。回答率は59%。

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