Edmond Burke's famous maxim that "those who don't know history are destined to repeat it"appears to be a feature not a bug for the ascendent Japanese right-wing. Shinzo Abe seems to have moved on from the LDP's previous Fawlty Towers policy on dealing with the past, to a brave new embracing of George Orwell's notion that "he who controls the past controls the future, and he who controls the present, controls the past"
From the Economist
Consider the following. Fourteen in the cabinet belong to the League for Going to Worship Together at Yasukuni, a controversial Tokyo shrine that honours leaders executed for war crimes. Thirteen support Nihon Kaigi, a nationalist think-tank that advocates a return to “traditional values” and rejects Japan’s “apology diplomacy” for its wartime misdeeds. Nine belong to a parliamentary association that wants the teaching of history in schools to give a better gloss to Japan’s militarist era. They deny most of Japan’s wartime atrocities.
The line-up includes Hakubun Shimomura, the new education minister, who wants to rescind not just the landmark 1995 “Murayama statement”, expressing remorse to Asia for Japan’s atrocities, but even annul the verdicts of the war-crimes trials in Tokyo in 1946-48
From the New York Times (the Western newspaper that China reads)
In an interview with the Sankei Shimbun newspaper, Mr. Abe, a right-wing nationalist, was quoted by Reuters on Monday as saying he wants to replace the 1995 apology with an unspecified “forward looking statement.” He said that his previous administration, in 2006-7, had found no evidence that the women who served as sex slaves to Japan’s wartime military had, in fact, been coerced.
With Japan wrapped up in war-time era territorial disputes with China, Taiwan, South Korea and Russia, Abe's eagerness to fan the nationalist embers into a full flame should be of serious concern to the United States. Abe is hoping his flag-waving militarism will distract from his party's corruption and inability to fix Japan's broken economy. He is also counting on the unquestioning support of the United States, which regards Okinawa as their largest aircraft carrier and has used Japan as its stable base in Asia since 1945.
While the U.S. has more pressing matters confronting it, unless it takes a firm line on Japan's provocative historical revisionism, it is liable to find itself dragged backwards into a confrontation with China.
China would happily play at brinksmanship with Japan over the Senkakus and would probably not even hesitate to seize the islands (possession being 9/10th of international law). Abe is counting on the Chinese not wanting to take on the U.S. Navy in the process, but the Chinese are probably well aware that no U.S. President is going to send U.S. sailors to die for Senkakus - especially when the U.S. military is already mired in Afghanistan, Iraq (and soon maybe Mali and/or Iran).
What could possibly go wrong?