WASHINGTON – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Barack Obama are to visit Tuesday at Pearl Harbour, the Hawaiian naval base where a 1941 attack by Japan brought the United States into World War II.
The visit 75 years later highlights how far the two allies have come and provides a symbolic bookend to Obama’s visit in May to Hiroshima, where the United States dropped the first atomic bomb.
The leaders are to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, a sweeping white structure suspended over the sunken remains of a ship destroyed during the battle.
“The horror of war should never be repeated. I would like to express this vow for the future and the value of reconciliation (between Japan and the United States) together with US President Obama,” Abe told reporters before departing Japan. He arrived Monday in Hawaii, where the Obamas are on Christmas holiday.
Abe will not apologize for the surprise attack on December 7, 1941, Japanese government officials said. The strike killed 2,403 Americans and left the US Pacific Fleet in tatters.
Though the visit will not be the first by a Japanese leader to the site, it will be the most prominent, as Abe stands alongside Obama to pay tribute to those killed in the war between their nations.
In May, Obama became the first US president to visit Hiroshima, where US forces dropped a nuclear bomb at the end of the war, and Abe’s visit had initially been reported as the first by a Japanese leader to the US site. In fact, premier Shigeru Yoshida made a low-key visit to the site in 1951 followed by two further prime ministers during the 1950s, the Japanese government confirmed.
The Pearl Harbor visit was decided by the leaders on the sidelines of the APEC summit in November and not directly tied to the Hiroshima visit, said Daniel Kritenbrink, an advisor to Obama on Asia policy. In Hiroshima, Obama did not offer an apology for US actions, but speak about the need to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
Obama and Abe will hold a bilateral meeting before touring the USS Arizona Memorial and then making remarks to an audience of US, local and military officials that will also likely include veterans and survivors of the attack, Kritenbrink said. – dpa