Abe pays homage to war victims in historic Pearl Harbour visit

US President Barack Obama says Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the site of the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour showed the power of reconciliation, and choosing peace over war.
Mr Obama and Mr Abe meeting survivors of the 1941 Pearl Harbour attack, after visiting the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii on Tuesday (yesterday morning, Singapore time). Both leaders went to great lengths to expound on the Japan-US alliance, with Mr
Mr Obama and Mr Abe meeting survivors of the 1941 Pearl Harbour attack, after visiting the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii on Tuesday (yesterday morning, Singapore time). Both leaders went to great lengths to expound on the Japan-US alliance, with Mr Abe describing their nations as "allies with deep and strong ties rarely found anywhere in history".PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

He pledges Japan will never repeat horrors of war, affirms ties with US

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on his first historic visit to Pearl Harbour, has offered his "sincere and everlasting condolences" to those who died in World War II, and vowed his country will "never repeat the horrors of war again".

While he did not apologise, he became the first Japanese leader to officially pay homage to the war dead at the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii on Tuesday (yesterday morning, Singapore time), although three other Japanese premiers had made quiet visits to Pearl Harbour in the 1950s.

On Dec 7, 1941, Japan launched a surprise aerial strike on the US Navy base at Pearl Harbour, killing 2,403 people and drawing America into World War II.

US President Barack Obama made a similarly historic visitin May to Hiroshima, which was pulverised by a US atomic bomb in the final days of the war. He and Mr Abe, speaking after summit talks earlier on Tuesday, went to great lengths to expound on the robust Japan-US alliance that emerged out of the ashes of war.

"Japan and the United States, which fought a fierce war that will go down in the annals of human history, have become allies with deep and strong ties rarely found anywhere in history," Mr Abe said, with Mr Obama standing next to him, during the ceremony which was aired live on Japanese public broadcaster NHK. "We are allies that will tackle together, to an even greater degree than ever before, the many challenges covering the globe."

Among the challenges discussed by the two leaders in their final talks before Mr Obama steps down were China's rising militarism and a wave of protectionist sentiment against free trade.

 
 

They agreed to closely monitor the movements of China's sole aircraft carrier Liaoning, which sailed into the western Pacific for the first time last week. China has termed it a routine exercise, but Japanese officials quoted the two leaders as saying the carrier's movements "warrant close attention from mid-term and long-term perspectives".

They also said it is vital for Tokyo and Washington to expand their alliance networks with Australia, India and other countries to ensure the Indo-Pacific is kept free and open.

Mr Abe also told Mr Obama that he will "tenaciously" urge the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump to promote a 12-nation free trade pact that is seen as a key pillar of the US' strategic pivot to Asia. Mr Trump has said he will disavow the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal.

At the ceremony, the two leaders laid a pair of wreaths at the memorial, tossed purple Hawaiian orchids into the water and observed a moment of silence. They also greeted war survivors in the crowd.

Mr Obama said the US-Japan alliance has "never been stronger". Borrowing the Japanese phrase otagai no tame ni ("with and for each other"), he said: "It is here that we remember that even when hatred burns hottest, even when the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward. We must resist the urge to demonise those who are different.

"As nations, and as people, we cannot choose the history that we inherit. But we can choose what lessons to draw from it, and use those lessons to chart our own futures."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2016, with the headline 'Abe pays homage to war victims in historic Pearl Harbour visit'. Print Edition | Subscribe