Shinzo Abe Headed to Pearl Harbor to 'Comfort Souls'
It will be first time a Japanese leader has visited the site in Hawaii
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 5, 2016 8:23 AM CST
In this June 3, 2015, file photo released by the US Navy, sailors work to repair the floating dock next to the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.   (Laurie Dexter/The US Navy via AP, File)

(Newser) – Right after Christmas comes a first for the US: a Japanese leader will visit Pearl Harbor. The Straits Times reports that PM Shinzo Abe will be in Hawaii for two days at the end of December to meet with President Obama, and he'll make a stop at the site of the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack (Wednesday is the 75th anniversary) where nearly 2,500 troops and civilians died. The visit—which the White House confirmed in a statement will happen on Dec. 27, per NBC News—seems to be a continuation of goodwill after Obama journeyed to Hiroshima in May to "mourn the dead" from the world's first atomic strike. On Monday, Abe spoke about Obama's speech then, saying the president's "message towards a nuclear-free world during his visit to Hiroshima remains etched into Japanese hearts."

And now Abe will return the favor. "We must never repeat the horror of war," he said in a televised presser, per the New York Times. "I want to express that determination as we look to the future, and at the same time send a message about the value of US-Japanese reconciliation." No itinerary has been released, with Abe simply saying his intent is to "comfort the souls of the victims." The founder of the Asia Strategy public policy consultancy tells CNN this is an "enormous" symbolic gesture on Abe's part, and that by making this move, he's acknowledging how important US-Japan relations are to keeping peace in Asia. Abe isn't the first member of his family to visit Pearl Harbor: His wife, Akie, paid what the Japan Times deemed a "surprise visit" there in August, paying her respects and spurring speculation that her husband might soon visit himself.

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