Mr. Abe’s ultimate goal is to rewrite Japan’s pacifist Constitution, written by Americans during the postwar occupation, which restricts the right to go to war. Here, too, Emperor Akihito disapproves, though he has no political power under the Constitution. A few days before Mr. Abe visited Yasukuni, the emperor, in comments marking his 80th birthday, expressed his “deep appreciation” toward those who wrote the post-1945 constitution in order to preserve the “precious values of peace and democracy.”
So, if history is the problem, Chinese and South Korean leaders will find allies in Tokyo, and they should meet Mr. Abe to confront, to negotiate and to resolve these issues. Their refusal to meet will only give Mr. Abe license to do what he wants. Japan’s military adventures are only possible with American support; the United States needs to make it clear that Mr. Abe’s agenda is not in the region’s interest. Surely what is needed in Asia is trust among states, and his actions undermine that trust.