FROM ADVERSARIES TO ALLIES
Japanese leader paid tribute to U.S. war dead with Obama
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed “everlasting condolences” as he joined President Obama at the USS Arizona Memorial on Tuesday to pay tribute to U.S. service members killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago.
With President Obama at his side, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid tribute to U.S. war dead at Pearl Harbor on Tuesday and offered “everlasting condolences” for the attack 75 years ago that killed 2,403 service members and propelled America into World War II.
Without formally apologizing, Mr. Abe spoke of his “overwhelming” emotions after he visited the USS Arizona memorial, where the remains of 1,177 sailors and Marines are still entombed underwater.
“I offer my sincere and everlasting condolences to the souls of those who lost their lives here, as well as to the spirits of all the brave men and women whose lives were taken by a war that commenced in this very place,” Mr. Abe said. “We must never repeat the horrors of war again.”
Mr. Obama said the Japanese leader’s gesture served as a reminder that “the most bitter of adversaries can become the strongest of allies.”
In an apparent dig at President-elect Donald Trump and his backers, Mr. Obama said the prime minister’s visit offered a lesson in tolerance and reconciliation.
“It is here that we remember that even when hatred burns hottest, even when the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward,” Mr. Obama said. “We must resist the urge to demonize those who are different.”
The president also praised the U.S. Japan alliance for “slowing the spread of nuclear weapons,” also seemingly a dig against Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump claimed last week that the U.S. “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” During the campaign, he seemed sanguine about the nuclear proliferation, even suggesting that Japan itself could acquire nuclear weapons.
The historic meeting was likely to be Mr. Obama’s last with a foreign leader as president. It came six months after Mr. Obama paid a similar visit to Hiroshima, Japan, where he became the first sitting U.S. president to see the site of the nuclear bomb attack by the U.S. that helped to force Japan’s surrender in 1945.
Although Japanese leaders have visited Pearl Harbor before, Mr. Abe is the first to visit the memorial that now rests on the hallowed waters above the sunken USS Arizona, where 1,177 sailors and Marines died during the aerial attack on Dec. 7, 1941.
At the memorial, which is reachable only by boat, Mr. Abe and Mr. Obama walked into the shrine room where the names of American service members killed in the attacks are engraved on a wall.
After pausing in front of two wreaths made of peace lilies, the leaders exited the room and dropped purple flower petals into the water.
More than 1,000 Americans also were wounded in the attack by more than 300 Japanese fighter planes and bombers.
After a year of populist revolts in democracies around the globe, Mr. Abe is one of the few prominent partners of Mr. Obama still holding onto power.
The Japanese leader also has reached out to Mr. Trump, being the first foreign leader to meet with the president-elect after his Nov. 8 victory. Mr. Abe has requested to meet with Mr. Trump a week after his inauguration, around Jan. 27.
Mr. Abe pledged that Japan’s alliance with the U.S. will remain strong.
“We are allies that will tackle together to an even greater degree than ever before, the many challenges covering the globe,” Mr. Abe said. “What has bonded us together is the power of reconciliation made possible through the spirit of tolerance. The world needs the spirit of tolerance and the power of reconciliation now, and especially now.”
Mr. Trump raised concerns in Japan during the campaign by seeming to question to the U.S. commitment to Tokyo’s defense, and saying if Japan had nuclear weapons, “I’m not sure that would be a bad thing for us.”
The president-elect also has declared his opposition to Mr. Obama’s TransPacific Partnership, effectively halting a free-trade deal with Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim nations intended to be an economic counterweight to China.
But the president-elect’s early meeting with Mr. Abe suggests that Mr. Trump also understands the importance of the U.S. alliance with its former wartime foe as his administration prepares to confront worsening national security challenges with North Korea and China.
China criticized Mr. 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.
“Japan can never turn this page over without reconciliation from China and other victimized countries in Asia,” she said.
“It depends on who’s running [in 2020]. It appears we’re going to have an old-folks’ home. We’ve got [Elizabeth] Warren; she’ll be 71. [Joseph R.] Biden will be 78. Bernie [Sanders] will be 79.”
— Retiring Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, in an interview with New York magazine, speculating on the party’s aging lineup of potential presidential contenders in 2020 and the lack of younger candidates in the party