In another sign that conventional diplomatic protocol is changing on a daily basis, on Monday Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would visit Hawaii on Dec. 26 and 27 for his final summit meeting with outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama, and to remember the victims of Japan's Pearl Harbor attack 75 years ago.
As Reuters reports, the visit will make Mr Abe the first sitting Japanese prime minister to visit Pearl Harbour since his country’s surprise attack on the Hawaiian port began the Pacific war 75 years ago.
Following Mr Obama’s visit to the atomic bombing site of Hiroshima earlier this year, it will break down one of the last remaining taboos between the US and Japan, symbolising the reconciliation between former enemies who have become close allies the FT adds.
"I'll visit Pearl Harbor with President Obama. This will be a visit to console the souls of the victims," Abe told reporters. "I would like to show to the world the resolve that horrors of war should never be repeated."
He said the visit would show their determination never to repeat the calamity of war. “It will be a chance to show the world the significance of our effort to look to the future and build an even stronger US-Japan alliance,” said Mr Abe. “This final summit is the culmination of all we have done.”
The visit marks another step in Mr Abe’s effort to reconcile his own conservative nationalism — which has occasionally veered into historical revisionism — with his desire to strengthen the US-Japan alliance and settle the ghosts of Japan’s history.
Last year, he referred to Pearl Harbour in a well-received speech to the US Congress, and gave a statement on the 70th anniversary of the war’s end without offending Japan’s neighbours. Mr Abe has landed on a formula where he often talks of his grief and sadness at the events of the war without offering specific apologies.
Although Mr Abe declined to pledge a Pearl Harbour trip when Mr Obama came to Hiroshima in May, a reciprocal visit was widely anticipated and has been discussed with US diplomats in the past. The prime minister said Mr Obama’s words at Hiroshima had “entered the hearts of many Japanese people”. Akie Abe, the prime minister’s wife, visited Pearl Harbour in August where she prayed at laid flowers at the USS Arizona memorial. That was widely regarded as a test run for a prime ministerial visit.
Obama will also accompany Abe to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor to honor those killed, the White House said.
“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,” spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement.
Earnest added that the meeting will be an opportunity for the two leaders to review joint efforts over the past four years to strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance, including a number of security, economic, and global challenges.