Obama and Abe to seek rec­on­cil­i­a­tion

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Putting 75 years of re­sent­ment be­hind them, the lead­ers of the United States and Ja­pan are com­ing to­gether at Pearl Har­bor for a his­toric pil­grim­age to the site where the blood­shed of sur­prise at­tacks thrust Amer­ica into World War II.

Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s visit with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama is pow­er­ful proof that the for­mer en­e­mies have tran­scended the re­crim­i­na­tory im­pulses that weighed down re­la­tions af­ter the war, Ja­pan’s gov­ern­ment has said. Al­though Ja­panese lead­ers have vis­ited Pearl Har­bor be­fore, Abe will be the first to visit the me­mo­rial that now rests on the hal­lowed wa­ters above the sunken USS Ari­zona.

For Obama, it’s likely the last time he will meet with a for­eign leader as pres­i­dent, White House aides said. It’s a book­end of sorts for the pres­i­dent, who nearly eight years ago in­vited Abe’s pre­de­ces­sor to be the first leader that Obama hosted at the White House. For Abe, it’s an act of sym­bolic rec­i­proc­ity, com­ing six months af­ter Obama be­came the first sit­ting US pres­i­dent to visit Hiroshima in Ja­pan, where the US dropped an atomic bomb in hopes of end­ing the war.

“This visit, and the pres­i­dent’s visit to Hiroshima ear­lier this year, would not have been pos­si­ble eight years ago,” said Daniel Kriten­brink, Obama’s top Asia ad­viser in the White House. “That we are here to­day is the re­sult of years of ef­forts at all lev­els of our gov­ern­ment and so­ci­eties, which has al­lowed us to jointly and di­rectly deal with even the most sen­si­tive as­pects of our shared his­tory.”

Sorry but not sorry

More than 2,300 Amer­i­cans died on Dec 7, 1941, when more than 300 Ja­panese fighter planes and bombers at­tacked. More than 1,000 oth­ers were wounded. In the en­su­ing years, the US in­car­cer­ated roughly 120,000 Ja­pane­seAmer­i­cans in in­tern­ment camps be­fore drop­ping atomic bombs in 1945 that killed some 140,000 peo­ple in Hiroshima and 70,000 in Na­gasaki.

Abe will not apol­o­gize for Pearl Har­bor, his gov­ern­ment has said. Nor did Obama apol­o­gize at Hiroshima in May, a visit that he and Abe used to em­pha­size their elu­sive as­pi­ra­tions for a nu­cle­ar­free fu­ture. No apol­ogy needed, said 96-year-old Al­fred Ro­drigues, a US Navy vet­eran who sur­vived what Pres­i­dent Franklin D Roo­sevelt called a “date which will live in in­famy.” “War is war,” Ro­drigues said as he looked at old pho­tos of his mil­i­tary ser­vice. “They were do­ing what they were sup­posed to do, and we were do­ing what we were sup­posed to do.”

Af­ter a for­mal meet­ing in the morn­ing, Obama and Abe planned to lay a wreath aboard the USS Ari­zona Me­mo­rial, which is ac­ces­si­ble only by boat. Then they’ll go to nearby Joint Base Pearl Har­bor-Hickam, where both lead­ers will speak. Obama and Abe signed off on the visit last month when they met in Peru on the side­lines of an eco­nomic sum­mit. Though the par­al­lels with Obama’s Hiroshima visit are pal­pa­ble, both gov­ern­ments said that one visit wasn’t con­tin­gent on the other.

Mean­while, China crit­i­cized Abe’s visit as an in­sin­cere at­tempt to ab­solve Ja­pan of its wartime ag­gres­sion. “Try­ing to liq­ui­date the his­tory of World War II by pay­ing a visit to Pearl Har­bor and con­sol­ing the dead is just wish­ful think­ing on Ja­pan’s part,” said Hua Chun­y­ing,a Chi­nese for­eign min­istry spokes­woman in Beijing, at a reg­u­lar brief­ing.

“Ja­pan can never turn this page over with­out rec­on­cil­i­a­tion from China and other vic­tim­ized coun­tries in Asia,” she said. “Ja­panese lead­ers should stop being so eva­sive and dodg­ing, and in­stead take a re­spon­si­ble at­ti­tude to­ward his­tory and fu­ture, deeply and sin­cerely re­flect upon the his­tory of ag­gres­sive war, and draw a clear break with the past.”

Po­lit­i­cal risk

Abe’s visit is not with­out po­lit­i­cal risk given the Ja­panese peo­ple’s long, emo­tional reck­on­ing with their na­tion’s ag­gres­sion in the war. Though the his­tory books have largely deemed Pearl Har­bor a sur­prise at­tack, Ja­pan’s gov­ern­ment in­sisted as re­cently as this month that it had in­tended to give the US prior no­tice that it was declar­ing war and failed only be­cause of “bu­reau­cratic bungling.”

“There’s this sense of guilt, if you like, among Ja­panese, this ‘Pearl Har­bor syn­drome,’ that we did some­thing very un­fair,” said Ta­maki Tsukada, a min­is­ter in the Em­bassy of Ja­pan in Wash­ing­ton. “I think the prime min­is­ter’s visit will in a sense ab­solve that kind of com­plex that Ja­panese peo­ple have.” Since the war, the US and Ja­pan have built a pow­er­ful al­liance that both sides say has grown stronger dur­ing Obama’s ten­ure. There are ques­tions about what the re­la­tion­ship will look like un­der Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump.

Dur­ing the cam­paign, Trump sug­gested that Ja­pan and South Korea should ob­tain nu­clear weapons so the US would no longer be bur­dened with costs of de­fend­ing them, a dis­qui­et­ing no­tion in many Asian cap­i­tals. But af­ter Trump’s elec­tion, Abe be­came the first for­eign leader to meet with him, sit­ting down in Trump Tower with the busi­ness mogul and Trump’s daugh­ter, Ivanka.

Though no Ja­panese prime min­is­ter has vis­ited the USS Ari­zona Me­mo­rial, for­mer Ja­panese leader leader Shigeru Yoshida vis­ited Pearl Har­bor in 1951, six years af­ter Ja­pan sur­ren­dered. He stopped there on his way home from sign­ing the San Fran­cisco peace treaty with the US and oth­ers, and paid a courtesy visit to the of­fice of Adm Arthur WR Rad­ford. Other prime min­is­ters have since vis­ited Pearl Har­bor and the Na­tional Me­mo­rial Ceme­tery of the Pa­cific, known as Punch­bowl. —AP

PALM BEACH: In this De­cem­ber 26, 2016 US Navy hand­out photo, Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter, Shinzo Abe (C) ar­rives at Joint Base Pearl Har­bor-Hickam. —AFP

MEM­PHIS: Po­lice of­fi­cers con­tinue to pa­trol the area as peo­ple linger in the park­ing lots around Oak Court Mall af­ter the mall was closed due to a dis­tur­bance. —AP

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