Japan hails PM’s visit while bracing for Trump

  • abe at pearl harbor
- Agence France-Presse, TOKYO

Dec 29, 2016-

Japanese on Wednesday 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 favourably comparing it to President Barack Obama’s journey this year to Hiroshima.

Both visits were highly choregraphed and in their remarks--Obama in Hiroshima and Abe in Hawaii --neither apologised 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.

“It was a beautiful message that deeply reflected the sentiment of both American and Japanese people,” said Kuniyoshi Takimoto, 95, a former navy aircraft mechanic on a carrier that took part in the raid. 

But Takimoto was also critical of Abe’s hawkish policy to expand the role of Japan’s constitutionally constrained military. 

“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”.

Published: 29-12-2016 08:14

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