Abe, Obama lay wreaths at Pearl Harbor WW II memorial
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Barack Obama made a poignant joint pilgrimage to Pearl Harbor today, laying wreaths for the victims of a stealth attack that triggered America’s entry into World War II.
The pair paid homage to the more than 2,400 Americans killed on December 7, 1941, delivering a ring of peace lilies and standing in silence before a shrine to those lost on the USS Arizona.
Abe’s visit is a high-profile mark of respect for a leader for whom Japan’s wartime past is often a prickly domestic issue.
It was foreshadowed by Obama’s own solemn pilgrimage to Hiroshima, where the United States effectively ended the war by dropping the first of two nuclear bombs on Japanese cities.
The meeting between the two leaders comes as Obama prepares to leave office and with Abe leading Japan into uncharted waters, after remarks by incoming US president Donald Trump clouded US-Japanese relations.
The US president-elect has declared his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, effectively killing a major trade deal that Obama championed and that Abe put at the heart of his economic strategy.
And, at least on the campaign trail, Trump has also called into question the US security guarantees that shielded Japan through the Cold War and later through the rise of an increasingly confident China.
The two leaders held their last bilateral meeting in the morning and will make remarks at around 12:05 pm (2205 GMT).
In eight years, Obama — America’s Hawaiian-born first “Pacific president” — never made much headway in his vaunted “rebalance to Asia” diplomatic strategy.
But he and Abe have chosen a telling spot to celebrate US-Japanese partnership, 75 years after the notorious “day of infamy,” December 7, 1941.
In 1956, then prime minister Ichiro Hatoyama visited the headquarters of the United States Pacific Command in Honolulu, which fronts onto Pearl Harbor.
And Abe’s grandfather, prime minister Nobusuke Kishi, also did so in 1957.
But Japan’s government says Abe’s visit is the first by a sitting prime minister to the Arizona Memorial to console the spirits of the dead. It is also the first time that a sitting Japanese prime minister has been joined at the memorial by a US president.
A reluctant America was drawn into the war already raging in Europe and its colonies, a war that ended after US atom bombs razed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Post-war cooperation, however, has healed many wounds.
Only five of the Arizona’s crewmen are still alive and, while the memorial remains a tourist draw, in Hawaii the divisions of war have given way to a shared present.