Ordinarily, the Volgi can go on for days about Japan’s insufficient historical reckoning with its crimes during World War Two. (Austria, please pick up the white courtesy phone.) Consequently, he generally enjoys when the Chinese shame the Japanese into some recognition of, say, the Rape of Nanking, or the hideous atrocities of Unit 731 in Harbin (Google it yourself, but be prepared for some gut-wrenching pictures).
That said, Japanese nationalism and assertiveness is hardly the problem of the day in Asia. It’s China that’s feeling its oats and grumbling about taking its proper place in the world (at the expense of its neighbors, the U.S., and Australia). So the Volgi is glad to see Gordon Chang’s report here that Yasuo Fukuda has resigned, likely bringing to power the LDP’s Tarō Asō, a charismatic, confident leader who—while a bit of a loose cannon—will present a strong face for Japan, lessening the chances of Chinese adventurism. As Mr. Chang writes:
Aso, if he gets his party’s nod, will not disappoint. For instance, he will not ignore the plight of the Japanese abducted by North Korean agents, thereby complicating President Bush’s efforts to settle the nuclear crisis with Pyongyang. Moreover, he is also bound to upset Beijing. While the dovish Fukuda thought it entirely proper to go to China to bow to a statute of Confucius, Aso will probably repeat earlier comments and tell the Chinese they’re a menace and declare that Taiwan is a separate country worthy of respect. He is just itching to go to Yasukuni, where war criminals are enshrined, thereby enraging Chinese, Koreans, and other Asians. In short, don’t look to him to show deference to Japan’s neighbors, friends, or foes.
The Volgi would rather he didn’t visit Yasukuni, as has been the practice of Japan’s emperors ever since the enshrinement of 14 Class A war criminals—including Tōjō—and about 1,000 lesser war criminals, among the 2,600,000 kami [spirits] of those who died fighting for the Emperor commemorated there.
Given that Asō is a Catholic rather than a Buddhist, presumably his visit there would be to pray for the repose of the souls there, as is incumbent upon Catholics, leaving their judgement to God, rather than paying homage so they don’t become vengeful, as is a belief in Shintō. The Volgi finds it an objectionable and foolish bit of symbolism nevertheless, and the Catholic Church in Japan has previously condemned Junichirō Koizumi’s visit to Yasukuni, so one doubts they’ll give one of their own any cover.
Having an Asō lead Japan is a bit of a risk: could he provoke China into—or, Saakashvili-like, provide a pretext for—some nasty action. Possibly. The Volgi’s sense is that the Chinese régime, however emboldened by its Olympics success, remain cautious about dramatic actions, foreign or domestic. If this is so, having an assertive PM like Asō in Japan is a net plus, perhaps even allowing the United States to play good cop for a while in managing China. But, we shall see.
Don’t ask impertinent questions like that jackass Adept Lu.