Abe’s Pearl Harbor visit should be a final stage for Japan-US reconciliation

09-Dec-2016 Intellasia | Chicago Tribune | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The following editorial appears in Wednesday’s Yomiuri Shimbun:

Japan and the United States, which fought each other in a war, have made continuous efforts toward reconciliation and built a solid alliance to contribute to world peace and prosperity. We hope prime minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Pearl Harbor will be a historic symbol of this mature relationship.

It was decided that Abe will visit Pearl Harbor together with US President Barack Obama on December 27 to console the souls of those who died in the attack there by the Japanese military in 1941.

Abe said: “We must never again repeat the devastation of war. I want to exhibit that resolve toward the future.”

The prime minister expressed “deep remorse” over World War II in his speech before the US Congress in April 2015. In his statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in August last year, he recognised that Japan’s wartime actions constituted “aggression” and expressed feelings of apology. In May this year, Obama visited the atomic-bombed city of Hiroshima as the first sitting US president to do so, and commemorated the victims.

We welcome the visit to Pearl Harbor, which is an extension of these moves, as an event to mark a clear end of an unfortunate period in the past between Japan and the United States.

Abe is expected to lay a floral tribute at the USS Arizona Memorial, a facility honoring war dead at Pearl Harbor, and express his views on the occasion. He will likely put priority on consoling the souls of the victims and avoid a direct expression of apology. This is reasonable.

Previous Japanese prime ministers, with the exception of Shigeru Yoshida, have been hesitant to visit Pearl Harbor, because the visits could be misunderstood as “diplomacy by apology.” This situation is similar to that of past US presidents concerning visiting atomic-bombed sites in Japan.

Pursue closer ties

It is not appropriate to equate the inhumane use of nuclear weapons on innocent citizens and a surprise attack on a military stronghold. However, it is meaningful that the leaders of the two countries, 70 years after the war, will collaborate with each other to solve pending issues and take a step forward toward the future.

In November, when Abe proposed his visit to Pearl Harbor, Obama told Abe that it should not be forced. Obama’s intent was that Abe should make the visit of his own volition, not in return for Obama’s visit to Hiroshima. We think Obama’s remark was positive and forward-looking.

The prime minister and Obama will hold a final bilateral meeting in Hawaii. It is important to again spread understanding of the significance of the Japan-US alliance in the world and Asia.

Obama has pressed ahead with a “rebalance” – Washington’s foreign policy of attaching importance to Asia – while Abe has responded to this change through his “proactive contribution to peace” policy, which allows Japan limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense. Defense cooperation between Japan and the United States has been strengthened, but North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and China’s maritime advances continue.

On the economic front, Obama took the initiative in Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact negotiations to set new rules. However, the future of the pact is uncertain, as US President-elect Donald Trump has announced that he will withdraw the United States from the treaty.

As the two countries face various challenges, it is more necessary than ever that Japan and the United States seriously pursue a way to more closely cooperate with each other. This is something to bear in mind.

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Category: Japan

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