It was a visit confirmed around the time of this year’s anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, and hinted at as early as seven months back, when the inverse happened first with outgoing US President Barack Obama visiting the city of Hiroshima and its peace park, the first to do so while in office, and some 70 years after it was leveled by an atomic bomb towards the end of World War II.
President Obama’s condolences for the dead (if not apology for the deed) as well as his commiserating with the aged survivors of the manmade cataclysm, inspired the idea for a reciprocal visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the place in Hawaii where Japan most hurt America back in the war years.
CNN reports that this Tuesday December 27, twenty days after the 75 th anniversary of the “Day of Infamy”, the historic visit finally took place. PM Abe, already in Hawaii days earlier for talks with Obama, was accompanied by the President on his tour of Pearl Harbor, now known in its active military installation name of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Together they made their way by boat to the USS Arizona memorial, a gleaming white shrine on the water built over the shallowly-submerged wreck of the most famous American battleship sunk in the battle. Abe was the first incumbent Japanese Prime Minister to go to the shrine and the first to be accompanied by the incumbent US President.
After a brief moment of silence side by side paying respects to the dead while contemplating the sunken ship under their feet, the two heads of state left wreaths at the shrine’s memorial wall listing all of the Arizona’s casualties. In a joint speech given during the visit, PM Abe mirrored Obama’s example in Hiroshima months ago, not issuing any apologies on behalf of his country’s wartime actions against the United States, but all the same offering condolences to the “souls of the lost”, as well as reaffirming Japan’s resolve in its solemn vow never to “wage war” ever again.
The Prime Minister spoke of how the battlefield where America and Japan first came to blows in conflict has also become the symbol of their reconciliation, pledging alongside Obama that succeeding generations of Japanese and Americans will continue to enjoy the friendship their nations have developed since.
For his part President Obama reflected on the resultant US-Japan post-war alliance, and how it led to their nations becoming more successful as their bonds grew stronger. He then warned against the resurgence of tribalism and “looking inward” signaled by the populist victories of BREXIT and Donald Trump, and to remember instead international friendships forged like after the battle at Pearl Harbor.
This meeting between Abe and Obama is one of the outgoing US President’s face-to- face with a fellow world leader.
Photo Credit to http://people.com/