Lingering historical animosities between Japan and its Northeast Asian neighbors-China and South Korea-inhibit improvements in Japan's bilateral relationships with these countries and contribute to regional instability. One of the ways Japan antagonizes its neighbors is when the Japanese prime minister pays tribute to Japanese war dead through ceremonial worship at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo-an event that Chinese and Koreans criticize as honoring Japanese imperialism. When Japanese prime ministers visit Yasukuni, they elicit responses from Beijing and Seoul that are widely known. What is less understood is what these responses can reveal about the starkly different political systems these two countries employ. This work examines 64 Japanese prime ministerial visits to the Yasukuni Shrine since 1951 and the resultant responses from Beijing and Seoul, and argues that the difference in political system had little impact on the approaches both governments took to these visits. While political systems may not have shaped the responses, they were important in the way each government responded to public opinion. The book concludes that when either government objected to official visits to Yasukuni, the underlying motivation for both governments was and remains the same: To prevent a resurgence of Japanese militarism.
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