Af­ter Hiroshima, Abe and Obama to pay re­spects at Pearl Har­bor

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

HONOLULU: Seven months af­ter Pres­i­dent Barack Obama vis­ited Hiroshima, the city where World War II all but ended, his Ja­panese coun­ter­part is pay­ing his re­spects at the site where the bru­tal con­flict be­gan. Prime Min­ster Shinzo Abe is trav­el­ing to Pearl Har­bor, where he and Obama hope to un­der­score the al­liance be­tween their two na­tions — 75 years af­ter the Ja­panese sur­prise at­tack that brought Amer­ica into his­tory’s blood­i­est war.

The two lead­ers are meet­ing Tues­day in Hawai­ian state cap­i­tal Honolulu, on the ar­chi­pel­ago’s Oahu is­land in the mid­dle of the Pa­cific Ocean. The visit has par­tic­u­lar res­o­nance for Obama, who was born in Hawaii and spent much of his child­hood and ado­les­cence here.

Abe and Obama will visit the wreck of the USS Ari­zona, where 1,177 sailors and Marines died. The ship’s rust­ing re­mains, still vis­i­ble, are now a me­mo­rial.

On De­cem­ber 7, 1941, “a date which will live in in­famy,” as then pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt said, Ja­pan’s Gen­eral Isoroku Ya­mamoto un­leashed a dev­as­tat­ing at­tack on Pearl Har­bor’s “Bat­tle­ship Row.” The as­sault caught the Amer­i­cans off guard, and the Ja­panese sunk or heav­ily dam­aged eight US bat­tle­ships.

The two-hour of­fen­sive killed 2,403 Amer­i­cans in all and in­jured more than 1,100 oth­ers.

An ex­plo­sion in the Ari­zona’s am­mu­ni­tion stocks sealed that ship’s fate.

‘The agony of war’

Just as when Obama vis­ited Hiroshima, the pur­pose of Abe’s tour is not to ques­tion de­ci­sions made three-quar­ters of a cen­tury ago, or to of­fer an apol­ogy, rather to pay homage to the vic­tims and en­cour­age his­tor­i­cal re­flec­tion. “It puts a book­end in some ways to this open US-Ja­pan con­ver­sa­tion about the past and the war,” said Ja­pan ex­pert Sheila Smith from the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions.

“It puts us on a very dif­fer­ent pedestal on the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion side of things which I think is im­por­tant for the re­gion to see.” In Hiroshima in May, dur­ing a speech given to a com­pletely silent crowd, Obama launched an im­pas­sioned plea for a world with­out nu­clear arms and he wrote a mes­sage in the vis­i­tor book at Hiroshima Peace Me­mo­rial Park.

“We have known the agony of war. Let us now find the courage, to­gether, to spread peace, and pur­sue a world with­out nu­clear weapons,” he wrote.

More than 16 mil­lion Amer­i­cans served in uni­form from 1941 to 1945 — more than 400,000 were killed. Pearl Har­bor and Hiroshima marked the be­gin­ning and end of the con­flict be­tween Ja­pan and Amer­ica, but it is im­pos­si­ble to com­pare the two. One was an at­tack on the heart of US naval power in the Pa­cific, the other an atomic bomb over a city. But each event has ce­mented it­self in the hearts and col­lec­tive mem­o­ries of the peo­ple, and both places re­main hal­lowed sites of pil­grim­age to this date. The Ari­zona me­mo­rial at­tracts almost two mil­lion visi­tors an­nu­ally, who file through a white build­ing just above the enor­mous ship’s wreck.

Mes­sage to Trump

The meet­ing takes on spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance, com­ing just four weeks be­fore the swear­ing in of Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump, who has sent mixed and some­times con­tra­dic­tory mes­sages as to the fu­ture of US-Asia ties. For Mireya Solis, an ex­pert at the Brook­ings Cen­ter for East Asia Pol­icy Stud­ies, Obama and Abe will be send­ing a “strong mes­sage about the ro­bust­ness of the US-Ja­pan al­liance.” —AFP

PEARL HAR­BOR: The USS Ari­zona Me­mo­rial, mark­ing the rest­ing place of the crew­men killed on De­cem­ber 7, 1941 when Ja­panese Naval Forces bombed Pearl Har­bor, is pic­tured on Satur­day in Pearl Har­bor, Hawaii. —AFP

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