The prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, sent "an expensive potted plant" to the controversial Yasukuni shrine and visited the son of an Indian justice who held that all the Japanese defendants at the 1946-1948 war crimes trials in Tokyo were innocent, the Financial Times of London reported Thursday.[1]  --  Last year, retiring Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited the shrine on the anniversary of Japan's official World War II surrender, Aug. 15, and there had been much speculation about whether Abe would visit the monument, where the names of 2.5 million war dead are kept in a "Book of Souls."  --  Sensivite wartime issues . . . dominate Asian diplomacy," Jo Johnson and David Pilling observed.  --  To protest the prime minister's absence from Yasukuni, Yoshihiro Tanjo, a 54-year-old member of an ultra-right-wing group, "mailed his severed left pinky finger, a DVD showing the finger being chopped, and a protest statement to the LDP headquarters on the day after the anniversary of the war's end," AP reported Thursday.[2]  --  A member of Abe's Liberal Democratic party filed a criminal complaint and Tanjo was arrested after he turned himself in at a local police station.  --  "Abe, an ardent nationalist, regularly prayed at Yasukuni in the past — but apparently has not done so since taking office last September, reflecting concern for Japan's fragile ties with its Asian neighbors," the AP report noted.  --  Prime Minister Abe is in political difficulty after being "sharply criticized by his own party on Friday for a huge election loss last month, with the party saying he was seen as out of touch with voters' interests," Reuters reported Friday.[3]  --  For more on Abe's sympathizing with Japan's militarist tradition and how it has contributed to his political rise, see here....

1.

World news

ABE MAKES COMPROMISE TRIBUTE TO DISSENTING WAR CRIMES JUDGE
By Jo Johnson (New Delhi) and David Pilling (Tokyo)

Financial Times (UK)
August 23, 2007

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/8d91ce62-518f-11dc-8779-0000779fd2ac.html

Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, risked irritating Beijing and Seoul during a state visit to India yesterday by paying homage to a Bengali judge revered by Japanese militarists for denouncing the legitimacy of the 1946-1948 Tokyo war crimes trials.

In a gesture to nationalists disappointed by his decision not to commemorate the end of the Second World War with a visit to the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo last week, Mr. Abe held a 20-minute meeting with the son of Justice Radhabinod Pal in Kolkata. Aides described it as a "courtesy visit."

Justice Pal, who died in 1967, was the only judge at the war crimes trial to rule that all the defendants -- including Hideki Tojo, the wartime prime minister -- were innocent.

His dissenting judgment has been seized on by those who say that Japan was subjected to "victors' justice" and that its leaders were condemned under international laws applied retrospectively.

Vivek Pinto, a visiting research fellow at Tokyo's International Christian University, said: "Pal has become a rightwing darling." The veneration of Pal, the subject of a tribute at the Yasukuni shrine, "shows the right is determined to show that the [Tokyo] trial was a big hoax, which in a sense it was."

Mr. Abe, who has pledged to restore Japanese pride and release it from what he calls the "postwar regime," has had to put aside some of his convictions in the interests of better relations with China. He has not visited Yasukuni, where a number of Class A war criminals are honored, but compromised by sending an expensive potted plant to the shrine.

More than one commentator has likened his meeting with Pal's son to a proxy visit to Yasukuni aimed at salving his conscience and mollifying some of his more nationalistic supporters.

South Korea's biggest newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, criticized the meeting, saying in an editorial before it took place: "He will travel all the way to India to embrace the descendants of a judge hailed as a hero by Japanese militarists for claiming innocence for Class A war criminals."

The judge has become a potent, if ambiguous, symbol of Indo-Japanese understanding. In 2005, Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, told a New Delhi banquet in honour of the last visiting Japanese premier, Junichiro Koizumi, that Pal's dissenting judgment would "always symbolize the affection and regard our people have for your country."

In a separate foray into sensitive wartime areas, which dominate Asian diplomacy, Mr. Abe met descendants of Subhas Chandra Bose, an Indian nationalist who sided with imperial Japan during the Second World War. Japan's right says Bose confirms its view that the country was waging a war of liberation from colonialism -- not a war of aggression.

2.

Asia-Pacific

JAPAN POLICE ARREST RIGHTIST WHO MAILED HIS FINGER TO LAWMAKERS IN WAR SHRINE PROTEST

Associated Press
August 23, 2007

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/08/24/asia/AS-GEN-Japan-Rightist-Finger.php

TOKYO -- Police have arrested a right-wing extremist for sending his severed finger to Japan's ruling party to protest the prime minister's absence from a war shrine on the anniversary of the end of World War II, officials and news reports said.

Yoshihiro Tanjo, a 54-year-old member of an ultra-right-wing group in Okayama, western Japan, was arrested Thursday on charges of threatening Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party, a prefectural police spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity. He said no other details could be immediately released.

Kyodo News agency said Tanjo mailed his severed left pinky finger, a DVD showing the finger being chopped, and a protest statement to the LDP headquarters on the day after the anniversary of the war's end. A party official opened the package on Monday and immediately filed a criminal compliant, Kyodo said.

Yasukuni Shrine honors Japan's 2.5 million war dead, including executed wartime leaders convicted as war criminals, and is vilified by critics at home and abroad as a symbol of the country's militaristic past.

Abe, an ardent nationalist, regularly prayed at Yasukuni in the past -- but apparently has not done so since taking office last September, reflecting concern for Japan's fragile ties with its Asian neighbors.

Dozens of right-wing extremists staged a noisy rally outside the prime minister's office on Aug. 15, the anniversary of Japan's surrender, criticizing Abe for not praying at Yasukuni and calling him a "traitor."

Tanjo turned himself in at a local police station on Saturday, saying he sent the finger so that his action would be taken seriously, Kyodo said.

3.

JAPAN PM RAPPED BY PARTY FOR HUGE ELECTION LOSS

Reuters
August 24, 2007

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/24/AR2007082400624.html

TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was sharply criticized by his own party on Friday for a huge election loss last month, with the party saying he was seen as out of touch with voters' interests.

The rare public criticism by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) comes a month after voter anger over lost pension premiums, corruption scandals, and gaffes led to an election drubbing that cost Abe's coalition control of parliament's upper house.

"It may be that Prime Minister Abe had an image of siding with Nagatacho's politicians rather than the general public," the party said in the nine-page report analyzing the election loss. Nagatacho is the name of Tokyo's parliamentary district.

"There may have been doubts from the public over his leadership and his governing abilities," the party added, in reference to Abe's handling of political funding scandals involving cabinet members.

Abe has been blamed for focusing too much on his conservative agenda such as revising Japan's pacifist post-war constitution, while voters' main concerns were with bread-and-butter issues, including pensions and healthcare.

Despite the big loss and calls for him to go from some lawmakers within his own party, Abe did not step down after the election, saying he wanted to push on with his conservative reforms and boosting the economy.

In a bid for a fresh start, Abe will revamp his cabinet on Monday, after his first line-up was hit by a series of political funding scandals and gaffes.

The leader has given few clues on candidates, although his defense minister, Yuriko Koike, was quoted on Friday as saying she wanted to resign from her post and the finance minister is also tipped by the media to go.

Koike became Japan's first female defense minister just last month after her predecessor quit over a gaffe and she had been expected to remain since replacing her soon might look odd.

But her future has been clouded since Abe stepped in to end a public row she was having with the top official at her own ministry.