Abe, Obama set for emotional Pearl Harbor visit
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII | Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Hawaii on Monday to acknowledge the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago, landing at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in preparation to become the first Japanese prime minister to visit the USS Arizona memorial that honors sailors and Marines killed in the 1941 attack.
On a day when U.S. and Japanese officials announced a deal to ease tensions surrounding the America military presence in Japan, Mr. Abe first visited a memorial to those who died when a U.S. Navy submarine collided with a Japanese fishing vessel 15 years ago.
Mr. Shinzo visited the Ehime Maru Memorial in Honolulu on Monday. Nine boys and men died when the USS Greeneville rammed the Ehime Maru off Oahu on Feb. 9, 2001.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy were among those who joined Mr. Abe for the solemn visit. Japan’s former leader Shigeru Yoshida went to Pearl Harbor six years after the country’s World War II surrender, but that was before the USS Arizona Memorial was built.
The USS Arizona Memorial will be closed to the public Tuesday when Mr. Abe visits the historic site, joined by President Obama, who is vacationing in Hawaii with his family.
The importance of the visit may be mostly symbolic for two countries that, in a remarkable transformation, have grown into close allies in the decades since they faced off in brutal conflict. At the same time, it’s significant that it took more than 70 years for U.S.-Japanese relations to get to this point.
Mr. Abe won’t apologize for Japan’s attack when he visits, the government spokesman said earlier this month.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that “the purpose of the upcoming visit is to pay respects for the war dead and not to offer an apology.”
The visit comes six months after Mr. Obama became the first sitting American president to visit Hiroshima for victims of the U.S. atomic bombing of that city at the end of the same war. Mr. Obama did not offer an apology then either.
Separately on Monday, Japan and the U.S. negotiators in Tokyo announced an agreement in principle on guidelines for limiting immunity from Japanese prosecution for civilian workers at American military bases, following a murder case this year on a southern Japanese island involving a Marine-turned-contractor, officials said Monday.
Since July the governments have been negotiating several points concerning U.S. civilian contractors at American bases who are subject to protection under the countries’ Status of Forces Agreement.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that the two sides have agreed on how to define what constitutes a “civilian contractor” at an American base and hope to sign the agreement “during President Obama’s term.” He did not give further details.
The May arrest of the base contractor, accused of raping and murdering a 20-year-old woman, renewed outrage on Okinawa, where resentment has been simmering over the island’s heavy U.S. troop presence.
That prompted Tokyo and Washington to try to establish a clearer definition of “civilian base workers.” In July the two sides said base contractors, now described vaguely as having a “civilian component,” will be classified in more specific terms to exclude from preferential treatment those without skills and those who are residents of Japan, like the suspect in the April murder case.
About 50,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan under a bilateral security agreement, more than half of them based on Okinawa.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is in Hawaii to visit Pearl Harbor alongside President Obama. Mr. Abe is the first sitting Japanese head of state to do so.