Visits to Japan's War Shrine: R.I.P.

It's difficult to fathom, but Asia's future depends to some degree on whether a certain Japanese man bows at a shrine in Tokyo this August.

The man is Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, and his yearly visit to Yasukuni shrine, where 2.5 million war dead are honored, including 14 war criminals, is now in doubt.

After recent large-scale protests in China against such visits and other alleged anti-Chinese offenses by Japan, the Japan War-Bereaved Association, a powerful group that's long supported such high-level political visits on the date of Japan's World War II surrender, has asked the prime minister to reconsider his visits.

Japanese public opinion, too, has flipped and now opposes these visits, which have become a symbol to many Asians, especially Chinese and Koreans, of Japan's reluctance to fully comprehend its deeds during the war.

Building a new war memorial, without specifically honoring war criminals, would be the best alternative for Japan. That would eliminate China's easy excuse for its current anti-Japan stance and help bring these Asia giants closer.

China, too, still needs to confront its past, such as the millions of Chinese left dead by Mao's atrocities and the hundreds killed during the 1989 pro-democracy Tiananmen protests.

Neither country should let nationalist passions get in the way of dealing with the wrongs of the past. Confront the memories, and move on.

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