Japan Institute for National Fundamentals
Speaking out 【#217】
October 21, 2013
It’s Time for PM Abe to Meet Dalai Lama
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he extremely regrets his failure to visit Yasukuni Shrine when he first headed the Japanese government from 2006 to 2007. This may be true. His view that a prayer for the war dead should not be politicized in domestic or international politics is right.
So, it was again a matter for regret that Abe failed to visit the shrine during its annual spring and autumn festivals, namely the most natural way, this year. The prime minister must take some action to sweep away doubts that may have been caused about his remarks by not making difficult decision to visit the shrine. He will shortly get an ideal opportunity to act.
“U.S. opposition” cannot be used as an excuse
On November 15, Tibetan Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama will arrive in Japan, staying in the Tokyo metropolitan area for a few days. An incumbent Japanese prime minister’s first ever meeting with the Dalai Lama during the visit would be of strategic significance.
Recently, some people around the prime minister including former and current Foreign Ministry officials, alert to Abe’s long-standing positions, have frequently used the card of “U.S. opposition” to prevent Abe from making bold decisions. Most of them, however, may in fact be afraid of virulent reaction from the Chinese Communist Party. If not, they cannot oppose the prime minister’s meeting with the Dalai Lama.
The U.S. presidents have invited the Dalai Lama to the White House repeatedly. In October 2007, bipartisan Congressional leaders awarded the Dalai Lama with the Congressional Gold Medal in the presence of then President George W. Bush. The government, and ruling and opposition parties in the United States have been united to prevent China from politicizing U.S. contacts with the Dalai Lama.
Therefore, the United States cannot be expected to raise opposition to the top Japanese leader’s meeting with the Dalai Lama. The South Korean government, which has refrained from contacting with the Dalai Lama as the Japanese government has done, may have no choice but to remain silent about Japan’s contact with the Tibetan leader.
Follow India’s moral level
Former Japanese Ambassador to China Yuji Miyamoto says in his recent book: “German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s meeting with the Dalai Lama had little impact on Germany-China relations. But then French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s meeting with him had a serious impact. Diplomats in Beijing have recognized that the difference depended on whether top leaders had notified the Chinese side of such meetings in advance.”
In essence, that impacts differ depending on prior procedures is the advice from a veteran foreign ministry official. Abe can openly invite the Dalai Lama to the prime minister’s office after giving a prior notice to Chinese leaders.
The Dalai Lama represents not only the Tibetan but also people who suffer from and resist the Chinese Communist Party’s crackdown. To counter the “history card” used by anti-Japan forces in dealing with Japan, the Japanese government should complain against China’s ongoing human rights violations as well as refuting their historical perceptions. Nevertheless, the Japanese government has shied away from doing so. An incumbent prime minister’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, though being too late, could be a psychological turning point for Japan to launch a counter against China.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will make an official visit to India from November 30. The Indian government has allowed Dalai Lama to reside in India and provided the base to the Tibetan government-in-exile. The Japanese government’s practice of currying favor with China is shameful. The incumbent prime minister’s meeting with the Dalai Lama to raise Japan’s moral to the Indian level may be the most important preparation that the Japanese government should make for the imperial couple’s visit to India.
Yoichi Shimada is Planning Committee Member, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and Professor at Fukui Prefectural University.