Robert Novak

 The shrine's big problem is the inclusion in 1978 of the war criminals, including executed wartime leader Gen. Hideki Tojo. But Yasukuni's adjoining war museum, run by the shrine's staff, bothers even such friendly Americans as Schieffer. I visited it and found an alternative view of history that Japan was forced into invading China and bombing Pearl Harbor and is credited with liberating Asia from European colonialists. It is history written by the losers, but seems irrelevant to the issues of 2005.

 Koizumi rejects the danger of "militarism" in a Japan that has been a "pacifist state" and has not fired a shot in 60 years. The prime minister did not mention the arch-militarist Tojo by name, but that was what he had in mind when he told me: "I'm not visiting the shrine to pay respects or homage to any particular individual. Rather, I go there to pay respect to millions of people who lost their lives in the war."

 Chinese who visit Japan "will find out for themselves there is no militarism in this country," the prime minister said. But "because of years of education in China, there is a strong perception in China that the regime of 60 years ago still exists, that Japan must be hostile to China. That is far from reality."

 In the opinion of U.S. policymakers, it will remain far from reality so long as the United States lines up with Japan against China in Asia. Washington's nightmare is for Tokyo to decide it must rearm for protection because it no longer trusts the Americans. That is reason enough for the Bush administration not to get excited about the visit to the Shinto shrine.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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