Shinzo Abe Will Be First Japanese Leader To Visit Pearl Harbor Memorial

Dec 5, 2016
Originally published on December 8, 2016 12:29 pm

Updated at 11 a.m. ET on Dec. 8

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Pearl Harbor later this month, becoming the first Japanese head of state to visit the memorial at the site of the surprise attack.

President Obama will accompany Abe on the visit, which is scheduled for Dec. 27. The 75th anniversary of the attack is this Wednesday.

Earlier this year, Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, where he laid a wreath at a monument to those killed when the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Now, at the USS Arizona Memorial, Abe will honor those killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

"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," the White House said in a statement.

The Associated Press has more:

"Abe, in a brief statement, said he would visit Hawaii on Dec. 26 and 27 to pray for the war dead at Pearl Harbor and to hold a final summit meeting with Obama before his presidency ends.

" 'We must never repeat the tragedy of the war,' he told reporters. 'I would like to send this commitment. At the same time, I would like to send a message of reconciliation between Japan and the U.S.' ...

" 'Our talks in Hawaii will be a chance to show the rest of the world our ever stronger alliance in the future,' Abe said."

The attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 killed more than 2,300 American servicemen, pushing the U.S. to enter World War II.

Abe has already visited one U.S. memorial to the victims of World War II, as he said in an address to Congress last year. NPR's Jackie Northam reported at the time:

"Abe told lawmakers that during his visit to Washington, D.C., he went to the National World War II Memorial. He said he stood in silence there for some time.

" 'History is harsh. What is done cannot be undone,' Abe said, adding, 'I offer with profound respect my eternal condolences to the souls of all American people that were lost during World War II.' "

NPR, along with many other news outlets, initially reported that Abe would become the first Japanese head of state to visit Pearl Harbor. But in 1951, before the USS Arizona Memorial had been constructed, then-Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida visited Honolulu; the AP reported at the time that Yoshida made a brief visit to Pearl Harbor on that trip. Reuters reports that the Japanese government can't confirm the visit.

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