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Abe won’t visit Pearl Harbor to reciprocate Obama’s trip to Hiroshima

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shook hands after speaking to media in Shima, Japan on Wednesday.

SHIMA, Japan » Laying bare the complex politics of reconciliation and contrition, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday rejected the idea of visiting Pearl Harbor to reciprocate for President Barack Obama’s historic trip to Hiroshima later this week. Obama, for his part, said he would use his time in Hiroshima to honor all those killed in World War II and to push for a world without nuclear weapons.

The White House made clear well in advance of Obama’s arrival in Japan that the president would not apologize for the U.S. bombing on Aug. 6, 1945, that killed 140,000 people in Hiroshima and launched the nuclear age.

Abe, who met with Obama before the opening of a two-day summit of wealthy nations, was asked to reflect on the significance of the president’s trip to Hiroshima and whether he would in turn visit Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, where a surprise attack by the Japanese military on Dec. 7, 1941, killed more than 2,400 people, wounded scores and led the United States into the war.

Abe spoke first of the suffering of the Japanese people: “Numerous citizens sacrificed their lives. And even now, there are those of us suffering because of the atomic bombing,” he said. Their desire, he added, is for the world “never to repeat” such a tragedy, and he expressed hope that Obama’s visit would lend momentum to the goal of a nuclear-free world.

As for a visit to Pearl Harbor, Abe said: “At this moment I don’t have any specific plan to visit Hawaii.” He did not foreclose the idea of a visit entirely, but clearly sidestepped any suggestion that reciprocity was called for, as some have suggested.

The two leaders’ remarks made clear the sensitivities still attached to both countries’ wartime actions, and previewed the strong emotions that will be attached to Obama’s trip to Hiroshima on Friday, when he will be the first sitting president to pay his respects.

In Japan, Pearl Harbor is not seen as a parallel for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and then Nagasaki three days later, but as an attack on a military installation that did not target civilians. Obama’s visit to Hiroshima would be seen in Japan as less of a coup for Abe if it appeared to be linked to a visit to Pearl Harbor.

In the U.S., many believe the atomic bombs hastened the end of the war, saving countless other lives, though some historians say the U.S. was eager to use the weapons and Japan would have surrendered soon anyway.

Both Obama and Abe made a point to stress the strength of the current U.S.-Japanese alliance.

But Abe was unflinching in his harsh criticism of the U.S. over a new irritant that has inflamed the Japanese public: the recent arrest of a former Marine in connection with the murder of a Japanese woman in Okinawa, where anti-U.S. military sentiment is high because of a heavy American troop presence. The crime could fuel further opposition to the relocation of a U.S. Marine Corps air station on the southern Japanese island, a long-delayed project that Abe has been trying to push forward in the face of large protests.

Abe declared himself “just speechless” at the crime, and called for swift investigation of the offender “who committed this self-centered and absolutely despicable crime.”

Obama, for his part, offered his condolences and “deepest regrets.” He said any violent crime by U.S. personnel or contractors was appalling and pledged to do “everything that we can to prevent any crimes from taking place of this sort and that involves reviewing procedures and making sure that everything that can be done to prevent such occurrences from happening again are put into place.”

As for his visit to Hiroshima, Obama said the trip would be “a reminder that war involves suffering,” just as was the previous three days he spent in Vietnam, where he was the third president to visit since the end of the Vietnam War.

“We should always do what we can to prevent it,” he said. But he added: “It’s important for us to act on occasion in order to make sure that the American people are protected.”

Obama will meet with world leaders at the Group of Seven summit for the next two days, before stopping in Hiroshima on his way home.

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  • Meanwhile, the Chinese are still waiting for “a conciliatory gesture” from the Japanese for the Nanking Massacre, in which as many as 300,000 civilians were mass murdered, dwarfing the fatality count from Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

    • Right now the Chinese are the main adversary in the region, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they pull some kind of “Pearl Harbor” if they feel like they are trapped in the corner with everyone against them like what’s happening now with North Korea. Hopefully mending ties with countries such as Vietnam will help with getting others to pull their weight when it comes to defending the region instead of laying the burden on the backs of the United States all the time. That goes for Japan too since they saved a lot of money having the US defend them instead of building up their own fighting force good enough to stand up to countries such as China and Russia.

      • The US presence in pre-WW II had nothing to do with caring about the welfare of Southeast Asia, the Philippines, India, or then-embattled China. It had everything to do with protecting US/Western Allies’ financial and territorial interests in that region,
        British Hong Kong, French Vietnam, Cambodia, US-occupied Philippines (for its advanced position military bases), and British India.

        However, in the aftermath, ALL of these Asian countries sought and achieved independence, most by the late ’50’s. Vietnam and the former Burma were among the last, largely due to the argument of the “domino theory” used by Western nations who wanted to continue Western dominion in those nations.

        Prime Minister Abe, like his maternal grandfather who served in Japan’s postwar government as prime minister, are militant conservative “fascists”, who fully believe that Japan’s attack on the US via Pearl Harbor was justified and should have ended in a draw except for the genocidal use of the atomic bomb in two Japanese cities with largely civilian populations. It’s not that the US was interested in retaliating for all the Asian civilian casualties of the war. It was to inflict damage on a civilian, Asian population to instill fear of complete extermination of the Japanese people, on its bushido leadership.

        If Abe came, he would have come to look at the Japanese Empire’s furthest incursion and greatest success on US soil. Doubtless, if he laid a wreath at the Arizona, he would have done so with the loss of Japan’s cream of the crop aviators and submariners who lost their lives in that great strategic battle.

        He probably regrets that Prime Minister Tojo and Admiral Yamamoto did not follow up with the landing of troops to take over Oahu to prevent the return of the US carrier force.

        Revisionist history texts published under the eagle eye of Japanese conservatives maintain that the attack on Pearl Harbor was forced upon the Japanese Empire due to the US embargo of oil to Japan, ostensibly due to the Japanese invasion of China and Manchukuo. Japan, in these revisionist textbooks maintain that Japan’s only recourse was to declare war on the US.

        So, much for Abe’s feigned support of the US, and the altogether-real use of US military treaties to draw the US into a Japan-China confrontation, with Japan hiding beneath the US presence, rebuilding its military to provide offensive “defensive” capability as they had during WW II. The Japanese are now rebuilding its military, spending much needed financial resources to that end when its economy is literally in the doldrums after the economic outfall of the 2008 global bust.

        • So scr** the Japanese PM and Obama from kowtowing to him as he has done to Iran, Mexico, etc. etc. etc. embarrassing the U.S.

        • mitt_grund, you have done much research on the US/Japan relationship prior to the outbreak of WW II. Most of the citizenry then were not aware of the diplomatic discord that precipitated the “sneak attack”. Also your insight into the mentality(bushido) of the militarists that took control of the government by assassination of pacifist element that were then in power. As to the post war relationship, Japan appears to benefit most, as their constitution preclude their army to engage in foreign intervention and are to be used solely for home defense. There is current movement to amend their constitution which been met with stiff opposition.

        • Wow mitt_grund, you are projecting your personal bias way beyond reality. Humans and all other animals by their inherent nature, which is what allowed them to rise to the top in a Darwinian environment. Of course Abe is racist but so is Trump, Obama, Hillary and everyone else. The difference is whether they make real world decisions on what is best or let their racist nature make decisions for them. Abe understands this and probably would like US out of his country in terms of military bases and PO’d that the US dropped atomic weapons on his home country. However deep down inside he knows dang well his ancestors during WW2 started this with Pearl Harbor and murdering millions in Asian in Japan’s quest for expansion. But Abe fully understands Japan needs the US just as the US needs Japan because the bigger military and economic threats are N Korea and China. Therefore he does this “dance” of meeting Obama and letting Obama try to shore up his legacy including receiving his bogus nobel prize. So all I am reading about this ridiculous debate on who should apologize to who, ISIS and radical Islam is growing stronger and Chinese and other hackers are attacking Japan and the US via cyber attacks which is “bloodless” and does not require a military expansion as what was done in WW2. That is why this Obama visit is so bad. It does not advance the discussion of the CURRENT threats to BOTH the US and Japan, instead opens old wounds that need to be left alone, like a scab that is there to cover and protect a previous wound. Removing the scab prematurely only opens the old wound and prevents it from healing. That is what Obama is doing right now: picking at a scab that needs to be left ALONE.

        • Correction: “..humans and all other animals are RACIST by their inherent nature, which is what allowed them to rise to the top in a Darwinian environment…”

      • Why doesn’t Obama just spend the rest of his term playing golf with Bobby T and is other friends as what he is doing now is NOT helping, only making things worse. There is NO way China will ever pull a “Pearl Harbor” military maneuver because the US missile, anti-missile, laser and submarine advantage is superior to China right now and China would not survive. That is why that Asian American who became an American citizen later in his life and joined the US military was caught trying to steal American military secrets for the Chinese government; (if that Asian american is found guilty of stealing US military secrets he should be executed) As long as the US stays ahead in advanced missile, laser and even nuclear weapons technology, China will NEVER attack the US. HOWEVER it is fair game that the China ‘defeat’ the US as #1 economic superpower in the world.

        • The visit to Japan and more so Hiroshima is more symbolic than a gesture of goodwill. The visit to Vietnam as well. The underlying message is to China and that the US is willing to support these countries. We have every intention of making these countries the battleground which would keep them as solid allies that cannot run when the fight begins. Obama says he does not want war but he allows selling weapons of war to Taiwan and Vietnam. That is close to home for China and I cannot see anything angering them more. Bama is setting a mine field for Hillary or Trump to navigate.

    • Maybe the Chinese government should apologize to its own people for the 30 million Chinese they killed when the communists took over — which dwarfs the number of Chinese killed by the Japanese. All countries have something to apologize for, including China, including Japan, and including the USA. But Japan has been the USA’s biggest ally in Asia for decades. Maybe you missed hearing about China’s recent aggression in the South China Sea?

  • Japan still has skeletons in the closet. The bombing of Pearl Harbor and the “Rape of Nanking” are but two. Until they come out and acknowledge both, their nation’s conscience will not be clean. I’m not sure why they continue to avoid these issues. On the other hand, Japan bombed a military target in Pearl Harbor while America bombed civilians populations in Japan. As for the killing in Okinawa, I say turn the accused over to the Japanese government for prosecution and get the hell out of there. We’ve done enough crime to the Okinawans over the years.

    • Publicbraddah,

      Why should Japan be compelled to acknowledge the attack on Pearl Harbor? They never claimed they didn’t do it did they? And to be absolutely correct, Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field among others, were legitimate military targets, unlike some that the allies bombed during World War II.

      • Delta, my thoughts are similar. Tragically war always involves civilian casualties. Personally I would not think twice about killing an enemy soldier in uniform but never civilian women and children. There is a burden of regret we all feel with so many lives lost.

      • Japan started a war with a surprise attack against the US. The US was not at war with Japan or any other country. If you attack us, unprovoked, we have a right to kill all of you and wipe you from the face of the earth forever. We were lenient to Japan.

  • Glad that Abe will not be visiting Pearl Harbor. There would be not purpose. He is not going to apologize for the sneak attack on America. The Japanese
    Imperial army was perhaps more brutal than the Germans. Although the Germans killed more innocent people.

        • Have you been abroad lately? Trump is an embarrassment simply for making it as far as he has in our electoral process. He’s making us all look like… Well, you.

        • He’s making us all look like we elected an idoit for President in 2008 and 2012.

    • Yup, he used the occasion to dump on Obama for the rape and murder of a young Japanese woman by a US military person of Japanese descent. Seems a little out of proportion to the gesture Obama was making. But the quest for political advantage or one-up-man-ship is one politicians are always quick to take.

      • Shinzato is his wife’s family name. He himself is not of Okinawan descent. Not that it matters, but whatever point you’re trying to make with that one is moot.

  • There is more than enough blame to go around for everyone to wallow and drown. Do you want to be like those in the Middle East where they hold grudges and blood feuds for thousands of years? Take a lesson from Vietnam and move on!

  • Obama will visit Hiroshima and tell the people the atomic bombing was terrible. It was ordered by a Republican President. Excuse me, maybe he was a DEMOCRAT.

  • The dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima was not a tragedy. The real tragedy was the decision of Imperial Japan to go to war against the US starting with its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Everything that happened after that was brought about by that decision. They reaped what they sowed. No apology is warranted.

  • Of the two men, one is a gentleman with courage and a mind of greater dimension than the other. We cannot expect any apology from the lessor of the two men!

  • Fine to let time dull the collective memory, but they allied with Adolf Hitler, Musolini. Nazis and fascists. What does that say about their leaders back then? Do they recall that? Shame that we ended the war with A-bombs, but that is not our shame to bear. It is Japan’s own guilt that makes them squirm away from Pearl Harbor to this day. Hirohito came here. Don’t recall him doing Pearl Harbor either, but I’m not that clear on his trip.

  • Why do we insist on bringing up the War. Time to move on and worry about the future, not the past. Obama, any excuse to jet set around the World. He is a total disaster. He goes to Cuba and some low level meets him on the Tarmac. No respect.

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