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Obama, Abe remember Pearl Harbor dead in historic Arizona Memorial visit

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    President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe threw orchids into the water from the “well” over the ship at the Arizona Memorial.


    President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial, part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, in Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, today, as part of a ceremony to honor those killed in the Japanese attack on the naval harbor.


    President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo shook hands as they were photographed at the start of a bilateral meeting at Camp H.M. Smith today. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)


    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific to place a wreath at the Honolulu Memorial on Monday.


    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, strummed a pineapple-shaped ukulele presented to him by Gov. David Ige at a dinner held in Abe’s honor, Monday, in Honolulu. Abe laid wreaths at various cemeteries and memorials Monday ahead of a visit to the site of the 1941 bombing that plunged the United States into World War II. The USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor will be closed to the public today when Abe visits the historic site, joined by President Barack Obama, who is vacationing in Hawaii with his family.

Update 12:48 p.m.

In remarks to assembled dignitaries including World War II veterans, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today offered condolences for the lives lost in the attack on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago.

“As the prime minister of Japan, I offer my sincere and everlasting condolences to the souls of those who lost their lives here, as well as to the spirits of all the brave men and women whose lives were taken by a war that commenced in this very place,” Abe said on the grounds of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, overlooking the USS Arizona Memorial at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Abe, and President Barack Obama, made brief remarks after a solemn visit to the memorial.

Obama called Abe’s visit a “historic gesture” of reconciliation. He said the visit illustrates that enemies can become allies and “the fruits of peace always outweigh the plunder of war.”

“The character of nations is tested in war, but it is defined in peace,” Obama said. “After one of the most horrific chapters in human history, one that took not tens of thousands, but tens of millions of lives with ferocious fighting across this ocean, the United States and Japan chose friendship, and they chose peace. Over the decades our alliance has made both of our nations more successful. It has helped underwrite the international order that has prevented another world war.”

Update 12:01 p.m.

President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe laid wreaths aboard the USS Arizona Memorial to honor those killed in the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

It was the first visit by a Japanese leader to the memorial.

The two leaders said nothing during their brief visit. They stood in silence for several minutes before walking in unison in front of two wreaths of light pink anthuriums placed before the marble wall listing the names of those who died on the USS Arizona.

Obama’s wreath bore a white ribbon saying “In Remembrance, Barack Obama, President of the United States, and Abe’s a ribbon that says “In Remembrance, Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan,” according to the Associated Press. They adjusted the wreaths, stepped back and spent about a minute with their heads bowed.

Caroline Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, stood in silence nearby with other dignitaries.

Obama and Abe then walked slowly back to the memorial entrance, turned to the wall once more and bowed their heads, before exiting.

The two leaders also tossed flower petals into the waters below where the destroyed battleship and more than 900 entombed sailors lays.

USS Arizona Memorial as they paid tribute to victims of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

After the short visit, they boarded a boat to a nearby pier to address a crowd of dignitaries from Japan and the U.S. Several World War II veterans sat in the front row of the pier overlooking Pearl Harbor, where 2,400 Americans died 75 years ago.

Update 11:30 a.m.

President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived at Pearl Harbor late this morning for their historic visit to the Arizona Memorial today.

Under heavy security, they boarded the Pacific Fleet admiral’s barge for the memorial where they were expected to lay a wreath. The visit to the Memorial lasted from about 11:06 a.m. to 11:24 a.m.

They are expected to make remarks once they return to the grounds of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.

The president and the prime minister arrived at Pearl Harbor after a formal meeting at Camp H.M. Smith, the headquarters for the U.S. Pacific Command. There, the two leaders sat in front of Japanese and American flags and shook hands, but did not make any comments to reporters.

Previous coverage from The Associated Press

Putting 75 years of resentment behind them, the leaders of the United States and Japan are coming together at Pearl Harbor for a historic pilgrimage to the site where a devastating surprise attack sent America marching into World War II.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit today with President Barack Obama is powerful proof that the former enemies have transcended the recriminatory impulses that weighed down relations after the war, Japan’s government has said. Although Japanese leaders have visited Pearl Harbor before, Abe will be the first to visit the memorial constructed on the hallowed waters above the sunken USS Arizona.

For Obama, it’s likely the last time he will meet with a foreign leader as president, White House aides said. It’s a bookend of sorts for the president, who nearly eight years ago invited Abe’s predecessor to be the first leader he hosted at the White House.

For Abe, it’s an act of symbolic reciprocity, coming six months after Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima in Japan, where the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb in hopes of ending the war it entered after Pearl Harbor.

“This visit, and the president’s visit to Hiroshima earlier this year, would not have been possible eight years ago,” said Daniel Kritenbrink, Obama’s top Asia adviser in the White House. “That we are here today is the result of years of efforts at all levels of our government and societies, which has allowed us to jointly and directly deal with even the most sensitive aspects of our shared history.”

More than 2,300 Americans died on Dec. 7, 1941, when more than 300 Japanese fighter planes and bombers attacked. More than 1,000 others were wounded. In the ensuing years, the U.S. incarcerated roughly 120,000 Japanese-Americans in internment camps before dropping atomic bombs in 1945 that killed some 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 70,000 in Nagasaki.

Abe will not apologize for Pearl Harbor, his government has said. Nor did Obama apologize at Hiroshima in May, a visit that he and Abe used to emphasize their elusive aspirations for a nuclear-free future.

No apology needed, said 96-year-old Alfred Rodrigues, a U.S. Navy veteran who survived what President Franklin D. Roosevelt called a “date which will live in infamy.”

“War is war,” Rodrigues said as he looked at old photos of his military service. “They were doing what they were supposed to do, and we were doing what we were supposed to do.”

After a formal meeting in the morning, Obama and Abe planned to lay a wreath aboard the USS Arizona Memorial, which is accessible only by boat. Then they’ll go to nearby Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, where both leaders will speak.

Abe’s visit is not without political risk given the Japanese people’s long, emotional reckoning with their nation’s aggression in the war. Though the history books have largely deemed Pearl Harbor a surprise attack, Japan’s government insisted as recently as this month that it had intended to give the U.S. prior notice that it was declaring war and failed only because of “bureaucratic bungling.”

“There’s this sense of guilt, if you like, among Japanese, this ‘Pearl Harbor syndrome,’ that we did something very unfair,” said Tamaki Tsukada, a minister in the Embassy of Japan in Washington. “I think the prime minister’s visit will in a sense absolve that kind of complex that Japanese people have.”

Since the war, the U.S. and Japan have built a powerful alliance that both sides say has grown during Obama’s tenure, including strengthened military ties. Both Obama and Abe were driving forces behind the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a sweeping free trade deal now on hold due to staunch opposition by Congress and President-elect Donald Trump.

Moving beyond the painful legacy of the war has been easier for Japan and the U.S. than for Japan and its other former foes, such as South Korea and China. As Abe arrived in Hawaii, Beijing dismissed as “wishful thinking” the notion that Japan could “liquidate the history of World War II” by visiting Pearl Harbor.

“Japan can never turn this page over without reconciliation from China and other victimized countries in Asia,” said Hua Chunying, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman.

As Obama’s presidency ends, there are questions about how U.S.-Japan ties will fare under Trump.

During the campaign, Trump suggested that Japan and South Korea should obtain nuclear weapons so the U.S. would no longer be burdened with the costs of defending them, a disquieting notion in many Asian capitals. But after Trump’s election, Abe became the first foreign leader to meet with him, sitting down in Trump Tower with the business mogul and Trump’s daughter Ivanka.

Though no Japanese prime minister has visited the USS Arizona Memorial, former Japanese leader Shigeru Yoshida visited Pearl Harbor in 1951, six years after Japan surrendered. He stopped there on his way home from signing the San Francisco peace treaty with the U.S. and others, and paid a courtesy visit to the office of Adm. Arthur W.R. Radford.

Other prime ministers have since visited Pearl Harbor and the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as Punchbowl.

Associated Press writers Brian Skoloff in Kailua, Hawaii, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Gillian Wong in Beijing contributed to this report.

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  • 1. Japan maliciously attacked the US on Dec 7 1941. Not much different from 9/11.
    2. Japan slaughtered millions of non-combatant civilians in a dozen countries.
    3. Japan tortured thousands of POWs in violation of international agreements.
    4. Japan enslaved thousands of women in Korea,China and elsewhere.
    5. Unlike Germany, Japan has never voluntarily apologized or shown national remorse for its actions. Individual leaders and royal family members have offered only limited, personal comments.
    6. Japanese children learn from textbooks that make excuses for and sidestep Japan’s role in WWII.
    And yet, the local media seems to regard Japan and the Japanese as the victims and heroes of WWII. Endless stories of the Japanese who fought for the US… what about the Koreans, Chinese, Hawaiians, Filipinos (who finally got some recognition). And big news everytime a Japanese leader visits PH. If they are not here to offer an official apology, then this should be back page news.

    • Big difference–the U.S. embargoed oil shipments to Japan before World War II, an act of war. FDR and his cronies, particularly the Chief of Naval Operations, withheld vital intelligence from the Commanders of the Army and Navy in Hawaii before December 7. U.S. aerial firebombing of Japan killed over 333,000 people, mostly innocent civilians. Likewise, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed mostly civilians. War is hell, FDR and Truman have plenty of blood on their hands also.

      • The US embargo was in large part a protest against Japan’s malicious attacks on Korea and China, and the subsequent inhumane treatment of innocent citizens of those countries. Japan was not exactly an innocent victim of US policy prior to the PH attack. And yes, the US did commit indiscriminate attacks on Japan during the war, after decades of Japanese activity that would have made Saddam Hussein look relatively angelic. The US made concessions to Japan thereafter and poured money into the rebuilding of that country. Japan has paid piddly squat to its victims.

        • People like to compare the Germans and the Japanese and how each respective defeated nation “apologized” for their roles in the Second World War. For those who believe the Japanese have utterly failed in comparison with the Germans, ask yourselves exactly what words of contrition would satisfy “all of the people, all of the time, now and forever.” If you think you know of such words, I for one would like to see such an “apology” posted right here and now. Better yet, forward a draft to the Japanese Consulate; I’m sure they’d like to put the matter of apologies to rest.

          Having said this, do any of you really think nationalistic, militaristic, and racist sentiment has been extinguished in Germany? This is a Germany where you cannot display swastikas or play or perform the Horst Wessel in public unless it is deemed of theatric or artistic merit – and maybe not even then. Setting aside whether or not you’d care to live in a society without even token First Amendment protections, do these abridgments of free speech mean the Germans of today are the most inclusive and accepting people on the face of the earth – especially given current events? If Angela Merkel is successfully reelected next year, then maybe so.

          Returning to the issue of what makes a sincere and acceptable apology, I really don’t think a nation that engaged in murder and the efficient disposal of corpses on an industrial scale can ever apologize “once and for all.” It’s for good reason the Jews say “never again” is it not?

          Anyone who concurs should become a member of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership. And no, you don’t need to be a Jew to join.

      • Ok wise one, we currently deploy economic sanctions against Iran, Russia, North Korea as opposed to using military force, just like FDR did back then. If they attack us on US soil, or elsewhere, what then? You going to say it was our fault for trying options that avoid using naked force and taking lives? Wow. Twisted logic.

    • You display your supreme ign0rance with your very first statement. There is a huge difference between Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Pearl Harbor was a strategic military strike, focused pretty exclusively on military targets. On the contrary, 9/11 was the opposite. It was an attack on civilians for the sole purpose of terrorism and fear.

      • Believe it or not, it is possible to respond to a comment without insulting the person you are replying to. Your very first statement detracts from the credibility of your argument. The attack on PH was a terrorist attack intended to retaliate against and challenge the US. Japan had not declared war on the US prior to the attack and it had no justification for targeting any US citizens, civilian or otherwise.

      • Well, we didn’t have another A-bomb on the shelf so we didn’t. In the end, the U.S. had to be satisfied with a conditional surrender that ensured the preservation of the Imperial House of Japan. It’s in the history books.

        • There was a 3rd bomb. The third bomb made it as far west as NAS Moffett Field in Sunnyvale, just south of San Francisco, in preparation for shipment to Tinian. We were waiting for a break in the weather to get it to Tinian.
          The master plan was to drop 12 bombs total, the Japanese surrendered after the 2nd drop.

        • Somehow, even viewing it over the span of over 70 years, I find it doubtful the U.S. would’ve had the stomach to drop ten additional atomic weapons on a enemy who had lost the ability to directly threaten the U.S. Mainland. Recall too, that the cultural center of Kyoto was spared from conventional bombing because of concerns that destroying that city would have only hardened the Japanese will to resist.

          Some think we used the second atomic (“Fat Man”) bomb just to intimidate the Russians. Others think the second bomb was used purely and dispassionately to test a different nuclear detonation technology as well as a different fissile element. Whatever the reason for the Nagasaki bomb, in just a little over five years, in November to December 1950, it remains a fact that President Truman didn’t unleash an atomic weapon on the Communist Chinese as they were kicking General Douglas MacArthur’s Marines, Army troops and some Brits out of North Korea. Maybe Truman was sorely tempted, but in the end he didn’t dare do it when it might’ve save some NATO lives (and no, Chinese lives don’t count in this equation).

        • After the attack on Pearl Harbor the Japanese said they woke a sleeping giant, they did.
          I think the US was planning on wiping Japan off the map.
          From what I read, Kyoto was next on the list and Tokyo was #5.

    • some good points. The story of the Japanese who fought bravely for their country-the USA-is often told out here in a stereotypical, incomplete way. One has to look behind the curtain of power to see why that has been so and who has benefitted from the story..

    • Mostly, no.

      Pearl Harbor – as has been pointed out to you – was a military target.

      “And yet, the local media seems to regard Japan and the Japanese as the victims and heroes of WWII.”

      Where in the world did you read – locally – or anywhere else any mention of the Japanese as “heroes of WWII?” While it’d be hard to call any civilian casualty of a firebombing raid or a nuclear attack something other than a victim, who exactly are these heroes and where in the media did you find that little gem?

    • To your point 3, torturing POWs, I would add the medical experimentation done in Harbin, if I recall the location correctly. Dr. Mengele had more publicity in Nazi war crime trials, but the so called research up there was more than inhuman. All I can say is I hope my godmother’s brother rests a little more peacefully on board the Arizona.

    • cojef,

      That Shinto shrine is also for more than a couple of million people (and a few animals too) who rendered great service to Japan. Perhaps Abe is really choosing to honor their sacrifices instead or as well.

      You could just ask him through the Japanese Consulate you know.

  • Wow Ige in a suit?? How come? Why so formal- did you have a suit on when you greeted the president came in. It is rare to see you in a suit no?? If you .check whenever you have a picture during all exposures in the media you more often than not do not have a suit on. Is Abe someone extra special?? I have to comment cause you and Caldwell do the same. If you want public respect then respect the position you are in and dress accordingly. I still don’t know how people voted for you-I am a life long democrat but definitely did not vote for and a lot of other arogant demos.

  • Pineapples, uks, AJAs, Japan, Pearl Harbor, Pres O, Japanese tourism – if only the AJAs could somehow morph into the island’s indigenous people, for real, this would be the best of all worlds. As it is, even though Pearl Harbor is native Hawaiian land (Kalaeloa), Abe will not see any native Hawaiian presence, except be reference, there. And as this goes, so goes Hawaii today. Would be a different story if the native H was in the majority, democracy equals majority rule and those left out reduced to selling bananas on the side of the road until the city and county shuts them down.

    • HUH? Japanese are 35% of the population and in decline. Their birth rates are low. It is true that they still dominate state and local government as well as much of the economy. But there were many Hawaiians at Pearl Harbor in 1941 and thousands fought for their own country-the USA. No need to invent dissension as the UH Hawaiian “Studies” faculty routinely does while cashing fat checks from the state of Hawaii.

      • For political reasons the UH faculty like to lump one drop Hawaiians in as “Hawaiians”.

        Some “Hawaiians” feel the pull off their ancestral Hawaiian roots – especially if they were able to get accepted at the Kamehameha Schools.

        IIRC most feel they are “locals” and Americans. Culturally wise, they’re a long way from considering themselves an “indigenous” people.

        Scientifically, there’s no hope of the original Hawaiian gene after 5 generations because there’s a limited number of chromosomes in our genomes. That’s why King Kalakaua proposed that Hawaiians more than 5 generations distant from their Hawaiian ancestors should not be called Hawaiians.

        I guess appearances-wise it doesn’t matter because we all have the same genes and the original Hawaiians came from Taiwan and not from a taro shoot. We’ll all look like Eurasians. And my cousins in the mainland often get mistaken for Mexicans. In fact about 50 years ago I couldn’t cross back from Tiajuana because the US border guard wouldn’t accept my Hawaii driver’s license and my “foreign accent”. I needed another picture ID. Perhaps my darker complexion after traveling a lot in the summer gave him the wrong idea.

        • The UH “faculty” you refer to is the Hawaiin “Studies” people. Hard to call them faculty really. Real faculty allow disagreement and reasoned argument, facts, logic and rationality in class.

          But I agree that intermarriage has been perhaps the key historical occurrence in Hawaii. It has played a big part in keeping the benign racial peace (relative peace) and allowed us to avoid the worst forms of segregation and apartheid. I am part Mandan and part “white.” I am proud of both sides. Most Hawaiians I know are tired of racist shibai and phony romanticized history. One can find plenty to blame in any aspect of history or current life. (Some Micronesians still are angry about Hawaiians invading the islands and keeping slaves and stolen land from the indigenous Marquesans.) They want to move on and make a better life for their families. Same as all other races actually.

    • Baloney…. we have about 30% Hawaiians by the one drop rule.

      Abe will see one out of three but still not really know because they look white, oriental or Filipino.

      The only real Polynesians Abe’ll see are Samoans or Tongans from their homeland. Many here are intermarrying like the rest of the immigrants to Hawaii. In a few more generations we’ll all look like Puerto Ricans.

  • Prime Minister Abe and his cabinet visited the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) formerly JPAC yesterday evening before going to the convention center. Has any US president done so ever?

  • Beautiful gesture on 2 world leaders. Honoring those soldiers on either side. Ensuring that the mistakes of War will never happen between these countries.

    • Actually more like grandstanding and questionable on what the REAL goal was for this visit in 2016. Just from these comments, it is clear this visit only managed to accomplish opening old wounds and racist hate. It is already obvious to all this will never happen again between the US and Japan, however the problems in Okinawa between US servicemen and military related ra pes/deaths HAS become a growing problem. Better that Obama and Abe visit the US military base where all these current problems going on.

  • The US and Japan have reconciled their difference as a result of WW2 many, many YEARS ago. This type of visit between Abe and Obama just opens OLD wounds. Just reading these posts you can feel the racist anger. BOTH sides suffered many times over and the decision makers who are responsible, BOTH on the Imperial Japan and US sides have all died long ago. Present day Japan and the US are economically and militarily tied to the hip and will support each other when attacked by a new enemy such as North Korea or Muslim Extremism. In other words other than personal accomplishment for the both presidents, there is NOTHING to gain by having this “historic” visit. Why? Because like the comments in this story, the only thing on many peoples minds are who is to blame more; Imperial Japan for bombing Pearl Harbor, brutality in Asia and desire for world domination or the US detonating nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the internment of AJA who had nothing to do with Imperial Japan.

    • Mostly agree – except that honoring those who gave their lives defending this country and these islands is not a thing that should get old.

      As for the “old wounds” to which you refer: on this board at least I’d call most of them either stolen or self-inflicted.

  • Thank you, Mahalo, and Arigato! Appreciation for honoring the dead. Those honored, died for their countries and will be part of the history of mankind. Let the reasons and answers be left for all those historians from the past, present and future. Historically, what has presently taken place between two Leaders is a sign of peace. Let bygones be bygones and let the dead rest in peace! Aloha nui loa!

    • Regarding that photo by Dennis Oda showing the two leaders throwing orchids into the water, pictured at right is Admiral Harry Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command. Ironically, and in this case appropriately, Admiral Harris is the son of an American father and a Japanese mother.

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