Japanese prime minister seeks to consolidate U.S. relationship with Pearl Harbor visit
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid a historic visit to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Tuesday to commemorate the victims of the 1941 attack by Japan that claimed the lives of 2,400 American servicemen, women, and civilians and drew the U.S. into World War II. Abe expressed “sincere and everlasting condolences” and reiterated the importance of strong U.S.-Japan ties in the face of growing threats from China and North Korea.
Standing beside U.S. President Barack Obama, Abe, who is the first Japanese premier to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, warned, “We must never repeat the horrors of war again.”
“As the prime minister of Japan, I offer my sincere and everlasting condolences to the souls of those who lost their lives here, as well as to the spirits of all the brave men and women whose lives were taken by a war that commenced in this very place.”
Obama called the visit “a historic gesture” and said the U.S.-Japan alliance was “a reminder that the deepest wounds of war can give way.” Earlier this year, Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, where he attended a memorial to those who lost their lives when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city in 1945.
Stopping short of an outright apology, Abe repeatedly focused on the strength of his country’s relationship with the U.S. and highlighted “the power of reconciliation.” His visit was received well by many survivors of the historic attack.
— CNN (@CNN) December 28, 2016
The two countries have shared historically strong relations since the end of the war — The U.S. is Japan’s second-largest trading partner behind China and is bound by a bilateral agreement to defend Japan in the case of an attack.
Yet the strength of that relationship faces fresh doubt ahead of President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration next month. Trump regularly criticized U.S. postwar defense arrangements and their costs, and was one of the loudest critics of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal for which Japan strongly advocated.
"I hope that together we send a message to the world that there is more to be won in peace than in war." —@POTUS at Pearl Harbor with PM Abe
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) December 27, 2016
A recent poll conducted in Japan showed that 40 percent of people believe the Japan-U.S. relationship will deteriorate under a Trump presidency, the highest level since the annual survey was first taken in 2004.
Such concern is not lost on the Japanese prime minister — Abe was among the first world leaders to pay Trump a visit after his surprise victory in November.