Prime minister Shinzo Abe is to visit Pearl Harbor, becoming the first Japanese leader to go to the site since the Japanese attack on US soil in 1941.
Mr. Abe will visit on 27 December with US President Barack Obama to the US naval base in Hawaii where Japanese forces launched an attack and killed 2,300 US servicemen.
The announcement was declared 2 days before the 75th anniversary of the attack, following the visit by President Obama in May to Hiroshima where 150,000 people are believed to have been killed in 1945 by a US atomic bomb.
Mr. Abe said in a statement: “I’d like to make it [meeting with Obama] an opportunity to send a message to the world that we will further strengthen and maintain our alliance towards the future,”
He added: “At the same time, I would like to send a message of reconciliation between Japan and the US.”
The two leaders will pray for the victims at the site before having their final summit in Hawaii.
Abe’s wife Akie, who visited Pearl Harbor in August, posted on Facebook the picture of herself at the USS Arizona Memorial in Honolulu. The first lady said her visit included saying prayers and laying flowers.
Social media in Japan has reacted positively to Abe’s announcement:
User @CNBLUE_6569 tweeted: “I think it’s a good thing, after seeing President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima, I felt strongly that I wanted a Japanese prime minister to visit” Pearl Harbor.
— emi☆ (@CNBLUE_6569) December 5, 2016
@chikazoemakoto tweeted: I think that Prime Minister Abe is really good. Because President Obama came to Hiroshima, the Prime Minister must also go to Pearl Harbor from Japan. That is why we can tune the balance.
— 近添真琴 (@chikazoemakoto) December 5, 2016
Last year, on the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, Shinzo Abe repeated the country’s official remorse and offered “eternal, sincere condolences” for the dead.
However, the expression has been used repetitively by previous Japanese leaders. Mr. Abe explained there was a limit to the number of times Japan could apologize. His action triggered public anger.
China’s state-run news agency Xinhua said Abe performed a “linguistic tricks” for further disrupt Japan’s relationship with Beijing.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said Abe “has made no new apology falling short of South Korea’s expectations”.
The visits of both the leader symbolizes the reconciliation between the US and Japan and their willingness to “pursue a world without nuclear weapons”.
Before the inauguration of Donald Trump in 2017, Abe’s visit with Obama is seen to provide the 44th president with a powerful farewell to the presidential office, highlighting the “patient diplomacy” between the US and Asia.