Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Barack Obama will honor those who died at Pearl Harbor on Tuesday, appearing together 75 years after Japan’s attack on Hawaii.
“The two leaders’ visit will showcase the power of reconciliation that has turned former adversaries into the closest of allies, united by common interests and shared values,” according to a White House statement.
Abe’s visit comes seven months after Obama’s historic trip to Hiroshima in which he became the first sitting US president to visit the site where the United States dropped a nuclear bomb in 1945.
Abe had implied his visit was in return for Obama visiting Hiroshima.
“President Obama’s message for the world without nuclear upon his visit to Hiroshima was engraved in the heart of the Japanese people,” Abe said earlier this month when his visit was announced.
“This will be a visit to soothe the souls of the victims. We should never repeat the ravages of the war.”
Although Abe is the fourth Japanese Prime Minister to visit Pearl Harbor, he is the first to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, a US battleship in which 1,177 Marines and sailors died after it sank in the harbor during the surprise attack on December 7, 1941. The attack left 2,403 dead and triggered the United States’ entry into World War II.
On Monday, Abe arrived in Hawaii. The prime minister is expected to visit several sites and lay a wreath at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. On Tuesday, he and Obama will visit the USS Arizona Memorial and meet to discuss “joint efforts over the past four years to strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance,” according to the White House.
Abe’s planned visit is a way of reciprocating the commitment shown by Obama to Japan-US relations, David Warren, an associate fellow of the Asia program at Chatham House in London told CNN earlier this month.
While the visit marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, it also comes weeks before the end of Obama’s administration and the beginning of Donald Trump’s.
Abe was Trump’s first in-person meeting with a foreign head of state after clinching the presidency in November. The visit came after Trump’s repeated suggestions during the campaign that Japan should shoulder a bigger financial burden regarding US military forces stationed in the region.
Abe had said he had been “very honored” to see the President-elect ahead of other world leaders.
“The Japan-US alliance is the axis of Japan’s diplomacy and security. The alliance becomes alive only when there is trust between us,” he said shortly after his November meeting with Trump.
Since assuming office in 2009, Obama had put US-Japan relations high on his agenda. His administration has shown solidarity with Japan through joint military drills as the Asian nation faces nuclear threats from North Korea and a territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The Chinese refer to the territories as the Diaoyu Islands.