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The New York Times
Week in Review
U.S. Needs Japan's Diplomacy, but Tokyo Isn't Talking
By NORIMITSU ONISHI
Published: June 25, 2006
South Korea and China are troubled by what they see as an increase in Japanese nationalism.
NORTH KOREA and its potential test of a long-range missile will top the agenda, no doubt, when Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan visits Washington next week. But what will, or should, President Bush say about Japan's ever-more-tenuous relations with its Asian neighbors?
American and Japanese coordination in the face of a possible launching last week could not have been more finely tuned, said J. Thomas Schieffer, the American ambassador to Japan.
But at a time when regional cooperation is needed as well, Japan is barely talking to China and South Korea. In fact, on Thursday, South Korea's President Roh Moo Hyun said that his country must strengthen its military deterrence, not against the North, but against Japan, because of a worsening territorial dispute.
Japan's relations with the two countries are their worst in decades, in great part because of bitter disagreements over Japan's militarist past. History is getting in the way even as Japan, with America's blessing, wants to play a bigger role in the region.
The last time they met, in Kyoto in November, Mr. Bush asked Mr. Koizumi about the troubled relations, but is said to have refrained from commenting. Since then, relations have remained frozen, and prospects for improvement look uncertain.
Worries have grown among American policy makers and scholars that the tensions are hurting Japanese — and American — interests in Asia. Calls have multiplied for the United States to become active, at least informally, in trying to resolve the disputes.
While Japan and China are at loggerheads over regional influence, natural resources and territory, Mr. Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, the memorial to Japan's war dead and its 14 highest-ranking war criminals, have drawn particularly strong criticism from Beijing, and from Seoul as well.
Mr. Koizumi says he prays for peace and for Japan's war dead when he visits Yasukuni. But China and South Korea consider the visits evidence of Japan's lack of repentance over its past. Both countries have refused to hold top-level meetings with Japan, citing the visits.
"The Yasukuni issue is undermining the efficacy of Japanese diplomacy in the region," said Kent Calder, director of the Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies at Johns Hopkins. "And that is important for the United States, particularly in a period when we are so involved in the Middle East and we don't have the resources and time that we should be devoting to East Asia."
The disputes have put the United States — which wants a more assertive Japan, but with which it shares its own wartime history — in an uncomfortable position.
Mr. Koizumi has cemented good relations with Mr. Bush by doing the previously unthinkable: deploying troops to Iraq, deepening military ties and moving Japan toward a revision of the Constitution.
The new military assertiveness, though, has given voice to conservatives who have long wanted to restore prewar symbols. Teachers are now being punished for refusing to sing the national anthem. Government-endorsed textbooks play down Japan's past militarism.
If Asia has been troubled by the rise of Japanese nationalism, it has also been perplexed by America's silence. Yasukuni, after all, enshrines leaders who waged war against the United States, too, and its museum propagates the rightist view that the United States forced Japan into war.
"It is one thing not to encourage Japanese nationalism, but the United States has not been discouraging it either," said Han Sung Joo, a former South Korean ambassador to the United States. "Japan seems to have little regard for how South Korea sees things, and the United States seems to have little regard for how Japan affects Korean sensitivities."
That, Mr. Han said, has undermined the trilateral alliance, the basis for America's security in Asia. "If one side of the triangle is weakened," he said, "the other sides suffer, too."
The silence has also encouraged Japanese hard-liners to take such a tough stance against China that the two countries no longer hold meaningful talks, said Kazuhiko Togo, a former Japanese diplomat who now teaches East Asian Studies at Princeton.
"They believe that America is backing this approach," Mr. Togo said. "But is that the case? If Japan cannot manage its relations with a rising China, I think that is a burden to the United States. I think that America should tell Japan that this situation it has created is not in anyone's interests."
But Mr. Togo — who is a grandson of Shigenori Togo, a wartime foreign minister who is one of the 14 prominent war criminals enshrined at Yasukuni — said American involvement in a debate over history could open a Pandora's box. A big gap in perception of history also exists between Japan and the United States.
Akio Takahara, a professor of politics at the University of Tokyo, said: "The atomic bombs are the most symbolic. What kind of historical view of the bombs do you have? How do you evaluate and perceive them?" The two countries have "completely different" perceptions, he added. Ambassador Schieffer said he found the view of history propagated by the Yasukuni war museum "very disturbing."
"If you viewed those exhibits or read those explanations, I think any American would be uncomfortable," Mr. Schieffer said, adding, however, that he believed Mr. Koizumi's explanations about his visits.
Japan and China have to work out their history problems by themselves, Mr. Schieffer said, adding, "I don't think it's helpful for foreigners to intervene."
Still, last month, Representative Henry J. Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee and a World War II veteran, said that Mr. Koizumi should pledge not to visit Yasukuni if he wanted to address a joint session of Congress. The Japanese said the prime minister never asked to do so.
Either way, he won't be going to Congress. Instead, after a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, Mr. Bush will take Mr. Koizumi, a longtime Elvis fan, to Memphis for a tour of Graceland.
The New York Times
Stay Tuned, as 2 Churches Struggle With Gay Clergy
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
Published: June 24, 2006
The only certain result of the Episcopal and Presbyterian church conventions that ended this week is that the participants will return to fight another day — and at future church conventions — over homosexuality.
For the Episcopal Church U.S.A. and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), as with other mainline Protestant churches, the summertime convention season has become a painful ritual. In each church, the conservatives and the liberals are bound together like brawling conjoined twins.
The liberals dominate the power centers of the denominations — the national offices and the legislative arms. The conservatives have threatened to walk away, but most have not because they say the church is rightfully, theologically, theirs.
"It's all very well to threaten divorce, but it's another thing to go to the divorce court," said David C. Steinmetz, a professor of the history of Christianity at Duke Divinity School who has spent the last few years on schism watch.
Members of both churches had looked to this year's conventions to clarify their positions on ordaining gay clergy members and blessing same-sex couples.
But instead, each convention produced the kind of parliamentary doublespeak that some Episcopalians call "Anglican fudge," a concoction often used to smooth over differences at meetings of the global Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is the American branch.
The Presbyterians, on the sixth day of their eight-day General Assembly in Birmingham, Ala., approved the proposal of a bipartisan "Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church," which had spent five years trying to devise a compromise that would keep the church from splitting. The vote was 57 percent to 43 percent.
The proposal gives congregations and regional districts known as presbyteries the leeway to ordain gay clergy members and elders, despite church standards banning the ordination of gay leaders, which the delegates voted to reconfirm at the convention.
Liberals who favor a "live and let live" solution were relieved. But the ball is now in the conservatives' court, and in the post-convention wrap-up, conservative leaders said in interviews that they were not in unity.
Some said they knew of individuals who would surely leave the Presbyterian Church and of churches that intended to "separate themselves" from the denomination, at least temporarily.
But the leaders of most conservative caucuses in the church are encouraging their members to stay and fight, and to challenge the first ordinations of gay clergy members in ecclesiastical courts. A victory or two would give them the precedent they need to undermine this "compromise," they said.
The Rev. Michael R. Walker, executive director of Presbyterians for Renewal, a large conservative group, said: "It's going to increase confusion and rancor in the church, and it's certainly going to result in a quagmire within church courts. So, far from promoting peace, unity and purity, it actually promotes unrest and disunity and impurity."
He said the compromise solution, in which each church or presbytery could make up its own mind, was not acceptable to many conservatives because they felt "guilty by association" with a church that had "compromised biblical standards" on sexuality and morality.
Terry Schlossberg, executive director of the Presbyterian Coalition, another conservative group, said: "We're tired. We don't want to keep fighting the same battles over again, but there are battles to fight that we could prevail in. We are going back to work. We will recommit ourselves to seeing this rescinded at the next General Assembly."
Stay tuned in 2008.
The Episcopalians went into their convention under pressure from conservatives in the United States, and in Africa, Asia and elsewhere, to express regret for consenting to the ordination of a gay bishop — V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire — at their convention three years ago.
The demands were in the Windsor Report, a document commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury in an effort to referee the ruckus that erupted after Bishop Robinson's consecration. The report asked the Episcopal Church to place a moratorium on the election of gay bishops, and to stop blessing same-sex couples.
The decision came down to the last day of the church's convention in Columbus, Ohio, on Wednesday. The House of Deputies, made up of priests and lay people, was apparently in no mood to comply with the report's demands.
Then, at the urging of the church's newly elected presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, the House of Deputies passed a statement saying the church should "exercise restraint" in electing bishops "whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."
Some advocates of gay inclusion were disappointed, but some of their liberal allies said it would buy the Episcopal Church time to remain in the Anglican Communion and persuade the bishops of other nations to accept the American position.
"I don't see it as a setback," said Bishop J. Jon Bruno of Los Angeles, a liberal. "I see it as a detour in the path to full inclusion of gay and lesbian people."
Bishop Bruno said he had been assured by the Archbishop of York, who was at the Columbus meeting, that the American statement would be sufficient to prevent the Americans from being excluded from the next major meeting of Anglican bishops, the Lambeth Conference in 2008.
The conservatives, however, insisted that the Americans' mea culpa was insufficient.
"If the communion puts its stock in this promise, it's going to be terribly deceived," said Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, a conservative group that has formed an alliance with conservative Anglicans in the developing world.
Bishop Duncan suggested in an interview that he had received assurances that the Anglican Communion would soon reprimand the Episcopal Church for disregarding orthodoxy.
"That's the stuff of reformations," he said. "And no reformation goes quickly."
African Anglicans slam US church as gay row deepens