Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe to ad­dress joint ses­sion of United States Congress


Shinzo Abe will be­come the first Ja­panese prime min­is­ter to ad­dress a joint ses­sion of the U.S. Congress, ex­pected Wed­nes­day to bring a mes­sage of deep­en­ing eco­nomic and se­cu­rity ties in the face of main­land China’s grow­ing clout.

Few Ja­panese politi­cians have ever ad­dressed Congress and none have done so in a cov­eted joint ses­sion of the U.S. Se­nate and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Abe will do so in the crown­ing event of a week-long U.S. tour as the two for­mer enemies pre­pare to mark the 70th an­niver­sary of the end of World War II.

The 60- year- old Abe’s visit comes as Wash­ing­ton presses Ja­pan to mend frayed ties with fel­low U. S. ally South Korea and with the main­land Chi­nese. Dur­ing the war Ja­pan’s Asian neigh­bors suf­fered from Ja­panese mil­i­tarism.

Bei­jing and Seoul will be closely watch­ing what Abe says. South Korea has urged Abe to use the op­por­tu­nity to ex­press “sin­cere re­pen­tance” for wartime atroc­i­ties, while the main­land’s for­eign min­istry has merely noted the re­ports of the U.S. in­vi­ta­tion.

Abe’s gov­ern­ment has pub­licly en­dorsed a 1995 apol­ogy for wartime wrongs.

But South Korea is hop­ing he ad­dresses Ja­pan’s con­tro­ver­sial em­pha­sis on pa­tri­o­tism in schools, and min­is­ters’ vis­its to a shrine that hon­ors the war dead, in­clud­ing con­victed war crim­i­nals.

Seoul be­lieves Tokyo has yet to fully atone for the ex­cesses of its colo­nial past and the forced re­cruit­ment of South Korean women to wartime mil­i­tary broth­els.

The fric­tion be­tween Seoul and Tokyo is an ir­ri­tant for Wash­ing­ton, which would rather see its two key re­gional al­lies bury the hatchet and fo­cus on form­ing a united front against an in­creas­ingly as­sertive main­land China.

On Tues­day Pres­i­dent Barack Obama wel­comed Abe to the White House as the two coun- tries sought to rein­vig­o­rate their 70-year al­liance in the face of main­land China’s grow­ing in­flu­ence.

The visit also comes amid in­tense ne­go­ti­a­tions over the U.S.led Trans- Pa­cific Part­ner­ship, a 12-na­tion free-trade agree­ment in­clud­ing Ja­panese par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Abe and Obama pledged Tues­day to forge ahead with the Trans-Pa­cific trade deal, which would en­com­pass 40 per­cent of the world econ­omy but ex­clude Bei­jing.

Main­land China has in­creas­ingly been mak­ing its eco­nomic prow­ess felt, push­ing hard for the cre­ation of an Asian In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank to ri­val U.S.-backed in­sti­tu­tions.

Obama de­nied that the United States op­posed the bank, but said trans­parency was es­sen­tial.

Voic­ing shared anx­i­ety about the main­land’s ac­tiv­i­ties in the South and East China Seas, the two lead­ers vowed to counter new threats and in­crease joint mil­i­tary de­ter­rence.

Obama ac­cused main­land China of “flex­ing their mus­cles” though ter­ri­to­rial claims and the build­ing of new is­lands in dis­puted wa­ters.

Many ex­perts be­lieve the oil­rich South China Sea — a mo­saic of his­tor­i­cal ter­ri­to­rial claims — could be a flash­point for con­flict.

The U.S. pres­i­dent re­it­er­ated his “ab­so­lute” com­mit­ment to Ja­pan’s de­fense and stressed that the pledge “cov­ers all ter­ri­to­ries un­der Ja­pan’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­clud­ing Senkaku Is­lands.”

Bei­jing lays claim to the is­land chain in the East China Sea it calls the Diaoyus.

Now for the first time that U.S. de­fense as­sur­ance will be re­cip­ro­cated, thanks to a deal signed dur­ing Abe’s visit.

Ja­pan’s well-trained and welle­quipped forces will be able to come to the de­fense of the United States, a dramatically more as­sertive se­cu­rity role for the of­fi­cially long-paci­fist coun­try.

But, Obama in­sisted, “we don’t think that a strong U.S.-Ja­pan al­liance should be seen as a provo­ca­tion.”

“We wel­come China’s peace­ful rise.”

‘Deeply pained’

The is­sue of wartime sex slav­ery is be­hind some U.S. op­po­si­tion to the in­vi­ta­tion for Abe to ad­dress law­mak­ers.

Ja­pan says it has al­ready apol­o­gized, of­fered fi­nan­cial com­pen­sa­tion and psy­cho­log­i­cal help to vic­tims.

Diplo­matic sources have said Abe’s speech was ex­pected to echo some of the themes from an ad­dress last July to the Aus­tralian par­lia­ment, where he ex­pressed hu­mil­ity about the “evils and hor­rors” of Ja­pan’s his­tory.

Dur­ing a joint press con­fer­ence Tues­day, Abe ex­pressed his re­morse over the sex­ual slav­ery of Asian women dur­ing World War II in Ja­panese mil­i­tary broth­els — a deeply emo­tive is­sue in main­land China and South Korea — but stopped short of is­su­ing his own apol­ogy.

“I am deeply pained to think about the ‘com­fort women’ who ex­pe­ri­enced im­mea­sur­able pain and suf­fer­ing as a re­sult of vic­tim­iza­tion due to hu­man traf­fick­ing,” Abe said.

Main­stream his­to­ri­ans say an es­ti­mated 200,000 women from Korea, main­land China and other Asian na­tions were sys­tem­at­i­cally raped by Ja­pan’s im­pe­rial forces.

Abe — who would like to move be­yond Ja­pan’s check­ered past — has been un­der fierce pres­sure to re­peat the apolo­gies of his pre­de­ces­sors.


For­mer com­fort woman Kil Un-ock, who was forced to serve for the Ja­panese troops as a sex­ual slave dur­ing World War II, at­tends a rally against a visit by Ja­panese Prime Min­ster Shinzo Abe to the United States, in front of the Ja­panese Em­bassy in Seoul, Wed­nes­day, April 29.

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