By Jeanette Tan, International News Writer
In an unexpected announcement on Monday, December 5, Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, said that he will visit Pearl Harbor later this month with United States President, Barack Obama, to pay tribute to the victims of the Japanese attack that occurred some 75 years ago. According to The Washington Post, Abe said, “This visit is to comfort the souls of the victims. We’d like to send messages about the importance of reconciliation between the two countries.”
The announcement came just two days before the 75th anniversary of the attack that propelled the United States into World War II. The surprise military strike on December 7, 1941 killed more than 2,300 Americans when Japanese planes invaded and attacked the US naval base.
In a statement, the White House Press Secretary confirmed that the joint visit in Hawaii will take place on December 27, 2016, where the two leaders will “showcase the power of reconciliation that has turned former adversaries into the closest of allies, united by common interests and shared values.”
A mix of emotions have been expressed by many Pearl Harbor survivors in response to Abe’s announcement. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, 94-year-old Jon “Chief Johnny” Gordon said, “I think it’s great he’s coming, because Japan is no longer governed by the military.” Other survivors, however, did not convey the same amicable spirit as Gordon did.
A former sailor on the USS Maryland, 95-year-old B.C. Wilborn, told The Wall Street Journal, “To tell you the truth, I’ve got no love lost for the Japanese.” Wilborn also recalled how he heard the tapping of servicemen trapped in the overturned USS Oklahoma, many of whom died before they could get any help.
Earlier in May 2016, Obama became the first sitting US President to visit the Japanese city of Hiroshima, where the world’s first atomic bomb was deployed on August 6, 1945.
Abe has implied that his impending visit was also to reciprocate Obama’s Hiroshima visit. CNN reported Abe saying, “President Obama’s message for the world without nuclear upon his visit to Hiroshima was engraved in the heart of the Japanese people.”
Although the US and Japan have since become staunch allies, the leaders of both nations still work hard to bring closure to past grievances.
“Our talks in Hawaii will be a chance to show the rest of the world our ever stronger alliance in the future,” Abe told The Associated Press.
While many news media have reported that Abe will be the first Japanese leader to visit Pearl Harbor since the end of World War II, but The Associated Press has stated that former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida made a brief visit to the U.S. Naval base in 1951.
It is said that he spent about 20 minutes there, and posed for photos with Admiral Arthur W.R. Radford, commander of the U.S. Pacific fleet.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, December 10th print edition.
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