Abe to send peace message at Pearl Harbour

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Pearl Harbour this month with US President Barack Obama, becoming his country's first leader to travel to the site of the Japanese attack 75 years ago that drew the United States into World War Two.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (second, left) and Defense Minister Tomomi Inada (third, left) waving as they depart for Hawaii at Tokyo's Haneda airport, on Dec 26, 2016.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (second, left) and Defense Minister Tomomi Inada (third, left) waving as they depart for Hawaii at Tokyo's Haneda airport, on Dec 26, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said yesterday he wants to send a message to the world during his visit to Pearl Harbour that Japan will never repeat the atrocities of past wars.

"The alliance between Japan and the United States is one with hope in dealing with various problems in the world," Mr Abe said in a speech to the Japanese business lobby Keidanren.

"I hope this visit will be a historical one, with leaders of Japan and the United States jointly visiting Pearl Harbour in a show of reconciliation," he added.

Mr Abe's meeting with President Barack Obama, which takes place in Honolulu today (Wednesday Singapore time), comes 75 years after the Japanese attack on Dec 7 that thrust the US into World War II.

But just as Mr Obama did not apologise for the US bombing of Hiroshima when he visited the city in May, Mr Abe is not expected to apologise for the attack that killed more than 2,000 military personnel, a step that would irk his conservative base.

 

Instead, Mr Abe is expected to use the Pearl Harbour visit, coming less than four weeks before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, to send a message that the alliance between the former foes is firm and vital in an uncertain region.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said earlier this month that the Pearl Harbour visit will "express the value of reconciliation between Japan and the United States".

In contrast, the wartime legacy still plagues Japan's relations with China and South Korea.

Mr Abe and Mr Obama will meet in the Hawaiian state capital, which is situated on the archipelago's Oahu island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

They will visit the wreck of the USS Arizona, where 1,177 sailors and Marines died. The ship's rusting remains, still visible, are now a memorial.

During his election campaign, Mr Trump had suggested he wanted to renegotiate the terms of the US troop presence in Japan, where about 50,000 American personnel are stationed.

He had also promised to scrap the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive global trade pact that Mr Abe firmly supports and which was designed to stop China from asserting too much economic influence in the region.

Mr Trump had also blasted Mr Obama for visiting Hiroshima.

But since Mr Trump's election on Nov 8, the populist businessman has reserved his sharpest barbs for China, and Mr Abe was the first foreign leader to meet Mr Trump after his election.

Following their hastily arranged meeting in New York, Mr Abe had called him a "trustworthy" leader.

Mr Jon Davidann, a historian at Hawaii Pacific University, said: "Trump's foreign policy in general is a bit of a wild card.

"We don't really know what he is going to do, but I think the US-Japan relationship will likely stay very strong."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2016, with the headline 'Abe to send peace message at Pearl Harbour'. Print Edition | Subscribe