Koizumi Cabinet E-mail Magazine No. 245 (August 3, 2006)
[Lion Heart -- Message from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi]
The long rainy season has finally ended and we are now in the season in which the blue sky of midsummer spreads out before us.
This year, once again, I will be attending the annual Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony on August 6 and the annual Nagasaki Peace Ceremony on August 9.
Since taking up the post of Prime Minister, I have always attended these ceremonies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I have expressed my condolences to the people who became victims of the atomic bombs with the thought that such tragedies must never again be repeated.
Also, each year on June 23, apart from in 2003 when I was unable to visit due to the need to attend a meeting of the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives, I have traveled to Okinawa and attended the annual Memorial Service for All the Fallen in the Battle of Okinawa.
In June 2005, almost 60 years after the end of the Second World War, I visited Iwojima, where approximately 22,000 people on the Japanese side and 6,800 on the United States (US) side died in the early months of 1945, to attend the Memorial Service for the War Dead in Iwojima and also laid a wreath at the Cenotaph for the Officers and Soldiers of the United States. Through these actions, I mourned the Japanese and US soldiers who died in the fierce battle.
At the very first press conference that I held right after I assumed the office of Prime Minister in April 2001, I made my position clear that, "I believe that during the post-war period, in order for Japan to develop peacefully, the most important thing has been to reflect first on the War, from which has come the realization that Japan must never again wage war. A policy for the future of Japan of the utmost importance is how to encourage the creation of a peaceful and respectable nation, through endeavors of the people of Japan."
Japan has maintained peace since the end of the War without participating in war even once, and without being involved in war either. The present peace and prosperity of Japan are built on the precious sacrifices made by people who lost their lives during the War. I sincerely mourn the war dead with thoughts of respect and gratitude.
In any country and at any time, I believe it is natural to mourn the loss of those who died in war.
Article 19 of the Constitution of Japan says that, "Freedom of thought and conscience shall not be violated." I think that offering sincere condolences for those who died in war in whatever style is a matter of individual freedom.
Since assuming the office of Prime Minister, I have visited Yasukuni Shrine once a year for the express purpose of sincerely mourning those who unwillingly lost their lives to the War.
I visit Yasukuni Shrine based on my own thoughts and do not force anyone to do the same. Nor do I myself visit Yasukuni Shrine under coercion.
I am aware that there are people within the mass media and among those known as intellectuals who criticize my visits to Yasukuni Shrine. I am also aware that some nations are critical of my visits to Yasukuni Shrine.
As for the opinions of these mass media commentators and intellectuals who criticize me, I cannot help but think that in essence they add up to the contention that I should stop visiting Yasukuni Shrine because China opposes such visits. Or in other words, it is better not to do things that China does not like.
I wonder how these mass media commentators and intellectuals perceive freedom of thought and conscience? Is it not a good thing to express feelings of respect and gratitude to the war dead, or is there something wrong with that?
I am an advocate of the friendship between Japan and China. At an international conference held in Boao, China in April 2002, I made clear my desire for even greater development of the friendly relationship between Japan and China and for both nations to prosper through exchanges in the following words. "Some see the economic development of China as a threat. I do not. I believe that its dynamic economic development presents challenges as well as a good opportunity for Japan. I believe a rising economic tide and expansion of the market in China will stimulate competition and will prove to be a tremendous opportunity for the world economy as a whole."
Actually, since I first assumed my responsibilities as Prime Minister in 2001, the volume of trade between Japan and China has more than doubled, and China has now overtaken the US to become Japan's largest trading partner. Moreover, during the same period the number of people traveling between Japan and China has increased to approximately 1.5 times.
I am ready to meet the Chinese leadership at any time. However, China takes the position that they would not conduct summit meetings with Japan as long as I continue to visit Yasukuni Shrine, putting a stop to our top-level meetings since April 2005 when I met with President Hu Jintao in Indonesia.
I do not understand the logic of this. If I were to say that I would not hold summit meetings because another country's ideas were different from my own ideas or from Japanese ideas, would you criticize the other party, or would you criticize me? Probably many would criticize me.
Such a brutal war should never be repeated and, moreover, the peace and prosperity of today's Japan is built upon the precious sacrifices made by the war dead. These thoughts form one of my starting points as a politician too. While keeping these thoughts in mind, this year too, I will once again attend the remembrance ceremonies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I will also attend the annual Memorial Ceremony for the War Dead on August 15.
* The title of this column "Lion Heart" is a reference to the Prime Minister's lion-like hairstyle and his unbending determination to advance structural reform.
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