US, Ja­pan mov­ing past legacy of war

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

PEARL HAR­BOR, Hawaii: The lead­ers of war-time en­e­mies Amer­ica and Ja­pan made a poignant joint pil­grim­age to Pearl Har­bor Tues­day, is­su­ing sym­bolic dec­la­ra­tions about the power of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and warn­ing against the drum­beat of con­flict. Sev­enty-five years af­ter Ja­panese pi­lots brought war to idyl­lic Hawaii and dragged the United States into World War II, Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe of­fered his “sin­cere and ev­er­last­ing con­do­lences”.

Abe and US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama paid homage to the more than 2,400 Amer­i­cans killed on Dec 7, 1941, de­liv­er­ing a wreath of peace lilies and stand­ing in si­lence be­fore a shrine to those lost on the USS Ari­zona - roughly half of all those killed. Abe’s visit is a high-pro­file mark of con­tri­tion by a leader for whom Ja­pan’s wartime past is of­ten a sen­si­tive do­mes­tic is­sue. “We must never re­peat the hor­rors of war,” he said. “What has bonded us to­gether is the power of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, made pos­si­ble through the spirit of tol­er­ance.”

Obama - who last May made a solemn pil­grim­age to Hiroshima, the tar­get of a US nu­clear bomb that ef­fec­tively ended the war - is­sued re­marks that rang with his­tory and Amer­ica’s cur­rent hy­per­charged pol­i­tics. “I welcome you here in the spirit of friend­ship,” he told Abe. “I hope that, to­gether, we send a mes­sage to the world that there is more to be won in peace than in war, that rec­on­cil­i­a­tion car­ries more re­wards than ret­ri­bu­tion. Even when ha­tred burns hottest, even when the tug of trib­al­ism is at its most pri­mal, we must re­sist the urge to turn in­ward,” Obama said against the back­drop of the USS Ari­zona. “We must re­sist the urge to de­mo­nize those who are dif­fer­ent.”

The meet­ing comes as Obama pre­pares to leave of­fice and with Abe lead­ing Ja­pan into un­charted wa­ters af­ter re­marks by in­com­ing US pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump clouded US-Ja­panese re­la­tions. Trump, who takes of­fice on Jan 20, ap­peared dur­ing his cam­paign to sug­gest Ja­pan break a ta­boo and de­velop its own nu­clear weapons. He caused con­ster­na­tion again last week when he threat­ened to re­vive the global nu­clear arms race.

The US pres­i­dent-elect has also de­clared his op­po­si­tion to the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship, ef­fec­tively killing a ma­jor trade deal that Obama cham­pi­oned and Abe put at the heart of his eco­nomic strat­egy. And - on the cam­paign trail at least - Trump called into ques­tion US se­cu­rity guar­an­tees that shielded Ja­pan through the Cold War and later the rise of an in­creas­ingly con­fi­dent China. What he will do in of­fice is un­known. Three Ja­panese prime min­is­ters, in­clud­ing Abe’s grand­fa­ther, vis­ited Hawaii in the 1950s but Abe is the first sit­ting PM to pay his re­spects at the USS Ari­zona Memorial, which was built in the 1960s.

In an emo­tive speech on the wa­ter­front, he imag­ined the long-silent voices of Amer­i­can vic­tims chat­ting about their fu­tures and their dreams, pray­ing for as-yet un­born chil­dren be­fore the car­nage. “All of that was brought to an end,” he said in Ja­panese. “When I con­tem­plate that solemn re­al­ity, I am ren­dered en­tirely speech­less.”

Mean­while, in Tokyo, cab­i­net min­is­ter Masahiro Ima­mura of­fered prayers at the Ya­sukuni war shrine that has been a flash­point for crit­i­cism by coun­tries that suf­fered un­der Ja­panese ag­gres­sion in the first half of the 20th cen­tury. “I re­ported about work to the gods and prayed for our coun­try’s peace and pros­per­ity,” he said, ac­cord­ing to the Asahi Shim­bun daily, stress­ing that the visit had “noth­ing to do with” Abe’s trip to Pearl Har­bor. Those hon­ored by the con­tro­ver­sial shrine in­clude se­nior mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal fig­ures con­victed of war crimes.

In 1941, the leg­endary Ad­mi­ral Isoroku Ya­mamoto ma­neu­vered six air­craft car­ri­ers to within 385 km of Oahu and un­leashed two waves of dive bombers. The US Pa­cific fleet, for­merly Ja­pan’s main ri­val in the re­gion, lost 21 war­ships and 328 planes. Af­ter Pearl Har­bor, the US Congress de­clared war on Ja­pan. Three days later, Ja­pan’s Euro­pean ally Nazi Ger­many de­clared war on the United States in turn. “Here at Pearl Har­bor, Amer­ica’s first bat­tle of the Sec­ond World War roused a na­tion,” Obama said. “Here in so many ways, Amer­ica came of age.” Three quar­ters of a cen­tury on, he added, the al­liance be­tween the United States and Ja­pan “has never been stronger.”


HONOLULU: US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama (left) and Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe place wreaths at the USS Ari­zona Memorial on Tues­day at Pearl Har­bor.

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