President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe walk near a podium in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Tuesday — the first official visit of any Japanese leader to the site since the surprise Dec. 7, 1941, attack.
(UPI) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday became the first leader from his country to make a public visit to Pearl Harbor and offer condolences for the devastating attack there 75 years ago.
Shinzo attended the USS Arizona Memorial with President Barack Obama Tuesday afternoon, the first Japanese leader to do so as part of a public ceremony.
“If we listen closely we can make out the sound of restless waves breaking and retreating again,” he said in his opening remarks.
“Together with President Obama I paid a visit to [the Arizona] memorial — the resting place for many souls,” he continued. “It was a place that brought utter silence to me.”
Monday, Abe arrived at the U.S. Navy base and laid a wreath to honor the dead from the surprise Dec. 7, 1941, assault.
Tuesday marked just the second visit to Pearl Harbor by any Japanese prime minister. Former leader Shigeru Yoshida briefly visited the site in September 1951, six years after the attack that effectively pushed the United States into World War II.
“Each and every one of those servicemen had a mother and a father, anxious about his safety. Many had wives and girlfriends they loved and many must have had children they would have loved watch grow up,” Abe said. “All of that was brought to an end.
“When I contemplate that solemn reality, I am rendered entirely speechless. Rest in peace, precious souls of the fallen.”
The Japanese leader’s visit was essentially payback for Obama’s similar trip to Hiroshima in August, when the American president similarly expressed sorrow for the U.S. nuclear attack that wiped out the city near the end of World War II.
Earlier this year, Abe said he had not yet considered making a trip to Pearl Harbor but eventually decided to return the favor of Obama’s trip — as part of the leaders’ hope that some of the decadesold wounds might be better healed.
“We must never repeat the horrors of war again,” Abe said. “This is the solemn vow we, the people of Japan, have taken.”
“Even the deepest wounds of war can give way to friendship and lasting peace. Even when hatred burns hottest, even when the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward. We must resist the urge to demonize those who are different,” he added.
“Mr. Abe, I welcome you here in the spirit of friendship, as the people of Japan have always welcomed me. I hope that together we send a message to the world that there is more to be won in peace than in war.”