Home English News Japan, US seal bonds during Abe’s symbolic visit to Pearl Harbor

Japan, US seal bonds during Abe’s symbolic visit to Pearl Harbor

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Washington – US President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday honoured the victims of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor more that 75 years ago at a solemn ceremony that they also used to rededicate the alliance between their two countries.

The historic visit by Abe to Hawaii included speeches by both leaders at a memorial dedicated to the more than 1,100 sailors who died on the USS Arizona, marking a further step in the reconciliation process between the two wartime enemies.

“I offer my sincere and everlasting condolences to the souls of those who lost their lives here” and to all who lost their lives in World War II, Abe said. Abe did not apologize for the attack, which on December 7 this year marked its 75th anniversary.

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But he delivered some poignant words, saying that in the serenity of the venue, he could almost hear the voices of the crewmen on the Arizona talking to each other about their futures and dreams. “All of that was brought to an end. When I contemplate that solemn reality, I am rendered entirely speechless. Rest in peace, precious souls of the fallen,” he said, speaking through a translator.

pearl-harbourDecember 7, 2016 – San Diego, California, USA – Petty officer, JOHN GRAY assists Pearl Harbor survivor, Gordon Jones with the tossing of the traditional wreath over the side at the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Ceremony on board the USS Midway Museum. (Credit Image: © Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune via ZUMA Wire)

Obama praised the friendship between the US and Japan, saying it had never been stronger. It had made both nations more successful, prevented another world war and lifted people out of extreme poverty, he said.

“It is here that we remember that even when hatred burns hottest, even when the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward,” Obama said.

The alliance between the US and Japan is bound by shared interests and “stands as the cornerstone of peace and stability in the Asia Pacific, and a force for progress around the globe,” he said.

Obama and Abe spoke before a small gathering at the memorial, which included some veterans who defended the US naval base when Japan attacked. Both made references to individual soldiers who were recognized for exceptional valour during the battle.

The two leaders laid wreaths made of peace lilies in the shrine room at the memorial, which bears the names of American service members killed in the attacks on a wall. They also dropped purple flowers into the water from the edge of the memorial, a large white structure suspended over water above the sunken remains of the Arizona, which was destroyed during the battle.

The surprise air attack killed 2,403 Americans and led to the United States entering World War II.

Although Abe’s visit is not the first by a Japanese leader to Pearl Harbor, it is the first to include ceremonies and speeches together with a sitting US president.

Abe arrived Monday in Hawaii, where Obama spent a portion of his childhood and where he and his family are spending the Christmas holiday. Abe’s journey follows Obama’s visit in May to Hiroshima, Japan, where US forces dropped a nuclear bomb at the end of the war. Obama also did not apologize for the decision, ordered by US president Harry Truman in 1945.

The last visits to Pearl Harbor by Japanese prime ministers were in the 1950s, the Japanese government confirmed.

-dpa