On December 7, 1941 – a date that has since lived in infamy – the United States was suddenly attacked by Japan’s naval and air forces, in what should’ve been a surgical strike to weaken American military power in the Pacific to allow Japanese expansion in the region, but instead disillusioned the US from staying isolationist and joining World War II to its eventual victorious conclusion. The site of the attack has become a large memorial complex honoring those who fought and died there, such as the wreck of the battleship Arizona. Japanese tourists who did go there usually do so out of a sense of apology or reconciliation.
The planned visit of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Pearl Harbor has been the cause of much media attention lately. According to The Wall Street Journal, he is slated to go there sometime late this December, making him the first incumbent Japanese prime minister to do so in the 75 years since the original attack. It has been pegged as a return gesture to a state visit last May of this year by outgoing President Barack Obama to Hiroshima, victim of the first atomic bombing in 1946 that, along with Nagasaki days later, would lead to Japan’s surrender and the definitive end of World War II as a whole. President Obama’s visit was the first of a sitting US president to one of the atomic bombing sites, ahead of the 71 st anniversary of the event.
While originally planned to be done this Wednesday December 7, to the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack itself, it was later decided not to push through with the date and settle for a visit later in the month, possibly in the company of Obama himself. It’s also been made known already that Abe’s wife and first lady, Akie Abe, had visited Pearl Harbor earlier this August, even laying flowers at the Arizona memorial. Abe himself visited the World War II memorial in Washington DC during a 2015 state visit.
In a discussion of what the Prime Minister may say in a speech during the Pearl Harbor visit, research director Kunihiko Miyake of the Canon Institute for Global Studies says that, just as President Obama did not issue any formal public apology in his speech during the Hiroshima visit, it’s unlikely that Abe will make any apologetic statements in his future visit as well. Rather, Miyake is of the opinion that any speech made by the prime minister there will instead touch upon the maturing of the US-Japan defensive and economic alliance, which has grown in the decades since the war.
US veterans groups welcomed the news of PM Abe’s impending visit to Pearl Harbor, likening it to “a healing trip, demonstrating the strength and importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance”.
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