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Thursday, 8th December 2016
In General Japan News,

Abe to become first Japanese leader to visit Pearl Harbor

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has made the historic decision to visit Pearl Harbor, the site of the attack that brought Japan and the US into World War Two. This announcement came on Monday (December 5th), just days before the 75th anniversary of the event on December 7th.

Abe will be the first sitting Japanese leader to ever visit Pearl Harbor, although he has stressed that he will not be there to make an apology. Instead, he will make the visit in order to "pay tribute" to the soldiers and civilians on both sides who died in the conflict.

Speaking to reporters, he said: "We must never repeat the tragedy of the war. I would like to send this commitment. At the same time, I would like to send a message of reconciliation between Japan and the US."

Abe's visit will happen as part of a summit with US president Barack Obama; the last meeting the two will have before the end of Obama's second term. The two leaders have had a good relationship and fostered a spirit of forgiveness for World War Two that had not previously been seen.

This was most recently evident in Obama's visit to Hiroshima in May, which marked another first. No other sitting US president had done that before, and Obama used the opportunity to pay tribute to the victims of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. He also stressed the friendship shared by the two countries.

Many in Japan have hope that this visit will further affirm the relationship between the US and Japan, as there is a lot of uncertainty about what will happen when President-Elect Donald Trump enters the White House in January.
Tsuneo Watanabe, a senior research fellow at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, is of the impression that this will help the relationship even with the new presidency. He said: "Historical disputes tend to be brought up when relations become thorny but once you put them behind and move on, it makes a difference if there is any negative sentiment in the future."