Ja­pan hails Pearl Har­bor visit, braces for Trump

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Ja­panese yes­ter­day hailed a his­toric visit by Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe to Pearl Har­bor, prais­ing his mes­sage of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with the United States but wary of the fu­ture af­ter Don­ald Trump takes of­fice. In­ter­est in Abe’s visit to the site of Ja­pan’s De­cem­ber 7, 1941 at­tack that drew the US into World War II has been high, with many fa­vor­ably com­par­ing it to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s jour­ney this year to Hiroshima.

Both vis­its were highly chore­ographed and in their re­marks-Obama in Hiroshima and Abe in Hawaii-nei­ther apol­o­gized or even ex­plic­itly said their coun­tries car­ried out the re­spec­tive at­tacks. But de­spite the care­ful words, the sym­bol­ism of their stand­ing to­gether again, this time at Pearl Har­bor, was clear to most in Ja­pan. Na­tional broad­caster NHK pro­vided live cov­er­age of their joint ad­dress around 7 am Ja­pan time (2200 GMT Tues­day).

It was de­liv­ered af­ter the two men vis­ited the memorial to the bat­tle­ship USS Ari­zona, sunk in the sur­prise Ja­panese at­tack. Ku­niyoshi Taki­moto, 95, a for­mer navy air­craft me­chanic on a car­rier that took part in the raid, praised Abe’s words. “It was a beau­ti­ful mes­sage that deeply re­flected the sen­ti­ment of both Amer­i­can and Ja­panese peo­ple,” he told AFP.

But Taki­moto was also crit­i­cal of Abe’s hawk­ish pol­icy to ex­pand the role of Ja­pan’s con­sti­tu­tion­ally con­strained mil­i­tary, in­clud­ing en­abling com­bat mis­sions abroad. “The beau­ti­ful mes­sage has a catch,” he said. Abe’s visit was slightly over­shad­owed by one of his own min­is­ters, who vis­ited the con­tro­ver­sial Ya­sukuni war shrine in Tokyo just hours af­ter Abe went to Pearl Har­bor. Masahiro Ima­mura, min­is­ter in charge of the re­con­struc­tion of north­ern Ja­pan af­ter the 2011 tsunami, was quoted by pub­lic broad­caster NHK as say­ing the tim­ing of his visit was “a co­in­ci­dence”.

But Haruko Sa­tou, pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics at Osaka Univer­sity, sug­gested that while Ima­mura’s true in­ten­tion was un­known the tim­ing was sus­pi­cious. “It’s nat­u­ral to think that he chose the same day when Prime Min­is­ter Abe vis­ited Pearl Har­bor,” Sa­tou told AFP. Ima­mura’s ac­tion is “likely to have a neg­a­tive im­pact on Ja­pan’s diplo­macy and off­set the pos­i­tive im­age of Abe’s his­toric visit”, she said.

Abe’s visit was also closely watched in China, where it was noted that he stressed ties with the US over Asia. “If Ja­pan re­ally wants to rec­on­cile over his­tor­i­cal is­sues, Abe chose the wrong place,” the na­tion­al­ist Global Times news­pa­per com­mented, say­ing he should visit Nan­jing, the site of a 1937 Ja­panese mas­sacre, or else­where in China.

China’s for­eign min­istry also weighed in, with spokes­woman Hua Chun­y­ing call­ing for a “sin­cere apol­ogy” to Asian coun­tries that suf­fered from Ja­panese mil­i­tarism. Abe aimed to high­light the sig­nif­i­cance of close mil­i­tary and eco­nomic re­la­tions with the US as Trump pre­pares to as­sume power amid ma­jor ques­tions about his poli­cies, sev­eral Ja­panese me­dia out­lets said.

Trump, dur­ing his cam­paign, ac­cused Ja­pan of not pay­ing its fair share in sup­port­ing the mil­i­tary al­liance, and sug­gested Tokyo could even de­velop its own nu­clear de­ter­rent. Abe’s speech also ex­pressed Ja­pan’s ap­pre­ci­a­tion for US re­con­struc­tion aid af­ter World War II. Com­men­ta­tor Takashi Ryuzaki said that com­ment was de­signed to en­gage the US pub­lic who sup­ported Trump.

“Rather than of­fer­ing an apol­ogy, the mes­sage of grat­i­tude for what Amer­ica did af­ter the war was ex­pressed,” Ryuzaki said on a TBS morn­ing show. The de­sire for a con­tin­ued solid Ja­pan-US re­la­tion­ship is what most Ja­panese, in­clud­ing Toky­oite Kazuko Ma­suda, 57, say they want. “Mr Trump ut­ters all those strong words... but I re­ally hope he as an in­di­vid­ual is the kind of per­son who walks an hon­or­able path,” she said.

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