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Shinzo Abe to Become First Japanese Leader to Visit Pearl Harbor

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Shinzo Abe to Honor Dead at Pearl Harbor

Mr. Abe, the prime minister of Japan, said on Monday that he will join President Obama this month at the site of the Japanese attack 75 years ago.

Photo by Jason Szenes/European Pressphoto Agency. Watch in Times Video »

TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday that he would visit Pearl Harbor, becoming the first sitting Japanese leader to go to the site of Japan’s attack 75 years ago that pulled a stunned United States into World War II.

Mr. Abe said in a televised news conference that he would travel to the American naval base with President Obama during a trip to Hawaii on Dec. 26 and 27.

By visiting Pearl Harbor, Mr. Abe will in effect be reciprocating a historic trip Mr. Obama made in May to the Japanese city of Hiroshima, where the United States dropped a nuclear bomb at the end of the war with Japan in 1945. No sitting American president had previously visited the city.

“We must never repeat the horror of war,” Mr. Abe said on Monday. “I want to express that determination as we look to the future, and at the same time send a message about the value of U.S.-Japanese reconciliation.”

Mr. Abe’s visit will come just a few weeks after the 75th anniversary of the attack, which occurred on Dec. 7, 1941. Carried out by Japanese bombers and fighter planes launched from aircraft carriers that had quietly slipped within striking distance of Hawaii, the attack killed more than 2,000 Americans and sank a number of United States warships, including the battleship Arizona, whose wreck has become a memorial to the battle.

The attack on Pearl Harbor, which did not deliver the knockout blow that its planners had hoped for, was a desperate gamble. Japan was waging a costly war in China, which had been dragging on for years, but its efforts there were foundering amid an American oil embargo. Striking the United States might break the impasse, the planners believed.

Japan’s own military analysts — including the master planner of Pearl Harbor, Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto — thought taking on the stronger Americans would most likely be futile. But the alternative of admitting that Japan’s imperial ambitions had hit a dead end was intolerable.

Mr. Abe, a staunch conservative who has argued that Japan has been unfairly demonized for its wartime conduct, is perhaps uniquely positioned to visit Pearl Harbor. A more liberal Japanese prime minister would likely be savaged by the political right for a lack of patriotism.

In August, Mr. Abe’s wife, Akie, paid a quiet visit to Pearl Harbor and the Arizona memorial, fueling speculation that her husband would follow, although Japanese officials had maintained that there was no plan for him to do so.

In Hiroshima, Mr. Obama spoke of the perils of modern warfare and sought to comfort aging survivors of the atomic blast, which, along with the subsequent bombing of Nagasaki, killed more than 200,000 people, mostly civilians.

Mr. Abe did not elaborate on Monday on his plans for the Pearl Harbor visit, which will be carefully choreographed with American officials. He said he hoped to “comfort the souls of the victims.”

In a statement, Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said that Mr. Obama and Mr. Abe would visit the Arizona memorial together to honor those killed at Pearl Harbor.

“The two leaders’ visit will showcase the power of reconciliation that has turned former adversaries into the closest of allies, united by common interests and shared values,” Mr. Earnest said.

The visit will take place in the thick of an American presidential transition that has threatened to inject new instability into international relations in Asia, including questions over the United States-Japan relationship, and that has unsettled policy makers in Tokyo.

President-elect Donald J. Trump often took aim at Japan during the campaign, on issues including trade and defense. Mr. Abe’s visit to Mr. Trump’s New York penthouse last month — the Japanese prime minister was the first foreign leader to meet with the president-elect after the Nov. 8 vote — looked to many like a pre-emptive effort to soothe the bilateral relationship.

Source: NYT > World

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