--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 18
EDITORIAL: Noda should watch his mouth
Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda should think more carefully about the implications of his words when talking about sensitive topics if he wants to become prime minister.
Noda recently said the Class-A war criminals interred at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo--wartime leaders of Japan who were convicted by the postwar Tokyo tribunal--are no longer war criminals.
During the administration of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Noda rebutted Koizumi's argument that they were war criminals. In an Aug. 15 news conference, Noda said his position on the issue had basically not changed since that time.
Noda put his view on the issue in a written question to the Koizumi Cabinet.
The war criminals were pardoned, released or executed under agreements between the countries running the postwar judicial process, he argued.
A basic tenet of modern law is that a person's criminal guilt disappears when the sentence has been carried out.
In short, Noda believes the war criminals are no longer criminals because they paid their debt to society.
He went on to ask what was wrong with the prime minister's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine if the people enshrined there were not criminals.
The question here is not whether the sentences given to the wartime leaders were carried out. It is a historical issue about whether their acts were in fact war crimes.
Noda is off the mark.
What he says does nothing but unnecessarily hurt the feelings of many people, both Japanese and foreign, whose relatives were killed in the war.
Noda is a member of the Cabinet and intends to run in the Democratic Party of Japan's upcoming election to choose its president.
If he becomes prime minister, he will have to speak about Japan's past as the representative of our nation.
He needs to exercise discretion in both action and words.
Noda did not visit the Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15, the anniversary of the end of the war.
When he ran for the party leadership race in 2002, he said he would not make an official visit to the shrine on the anniversary if he became prime minister, saying such an act would cause a diplomatic row.
But, if he puts importance on Japan's diplomacy, Noda should explain his views about this and other war-related issues.
South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has criticized Noda's remarks as an attempt to deny the facts about Japan's invasions of its neighbors.
Noda's stance on the war criminal issue would have unwanted effects on Japan's relations with China and South Korea but also the United States, which led the Tokyo tribunal.
Noda will face questions about this issue during the party leadership contest.
He needs to offer convincing and responsible answers to these questions and talk about his ideas about the war if he wants to be recognized as someone qualified to head the party and become Japan's prime minister.
In an article on the agenda he would pursue as the nation's leader, published in the September issue of the Bungei Shunju monthly magazine, Noda expressed his determination to tackle three crises: the decline of domestic industry, energy shortages and Japan's fiscal ills.
These certainly should be the top policy priorities at the moment and Noda should try to create a political environment that will allow for effective efforts to grapple with these formidable challenges.
Japan has been making serious, long-term efforts to come to terms with war-related issues.
Japan's leader should not do or say anything that could undermine the progress that has been made or create a situation that makes it difficult for the nation to tackle the real problems it faces today.