By Natsuko Fukue, AFP
TOKYO–Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is to become the first Japanese leader to visit Pearl Harbor, announcing Monday a trip to Hawaii this month for talks with U.S. President Barack Obama. Abe, who will be in Hawaii on Dec. 26 and 27, will visit the site of the surprise Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941, that began World War II in the Pacific. The Hawaii visit comes after Obama in May journeyed to Hiroshima, the Japanese city where a U.S. plane dropped the world’s first atom bomb in the closing chapter of the war. Nagasaki was bombed several days later. In Hiroshima 140,000 people died in the immediate blast on Aug. 6, 1945, or later from radiation exposure. The Nagasaki bomb, dropped on Aug. 9, killed more than 70,000 people. Obama gave a soaring speech in Hiroshima that, while it offered no apology, was generally well received in Japan as it focused on the suffering of the atomic bomb victims. “We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in the not-so-distant past,” Obama said in his speech at a cenotaph in the now thriving city, as a handful of surviving victims looked on. “We come to mourn the dead.” Obama had insisted before the trip that he would not revisit decisions made by then-president Harry Truman at the close of the brutal war, thus quashing any possibility of an apology. But as a flame flickered behind him, he said leaders had an obligation to “pursue a world without” nuclear weapons.
‘Reconciliation’ Abe on Monday hailed Obama’s May speech.
His “message towards a nuclear-free world during his visit to Hiroshima remains etched into Japanese hearts,” Abe said. “I’d like to make it (meeting with Obama) an opportunity to send a message to the world that we will further strengthen and maintain our alliance towards the future,” he said. “And at the same time, I want to make it an opportunity to signal the value of Japan-U.S. reconciliation.”