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Editorial: What message will Abe deliver on historic visit to Pearl Harbor?

  • December 7, 2016
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 13:40
  • English Press

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is scheduled to travel to Hawaii on Dec. 26 and 27 and visit Pearl Harbor with U.S. President Barack Obama.


It will be of great significance for the leaders of Japan and the United States to together mourn the victims of the surprise attack launched by the imperial Japanese military 75 years ago and reaffirm the values of reconciliation.


In May, Obama visited Hiroshima, which was devastated by the world’s first atomic bomb dropped by the United States in 1945. The U.S. president vowed to continue striving for the realization of a world free of nuclear weapons.


What message will Abe deliver at Pearl Harbor? Not only Japan and the United States, but also the entire world will be paying close attention.

Above everything, Abe must renew Japan’s vow never to resort to the use of arms based on genuine remorse for rushing into a reckless war.


In doing so, he must not forget about the people in the rest of Asia. Japanese and U.S. soldiers and citizens were not the only victims of that war.


The war in the Pacific, which was triggered by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, forced tremendous sacrifices on innumerable Asians. Even before Pearl Harbor, Japan was deep into its 10-year invasion and colonial domination, which had begun with the Manchurian Incident of 1931. Among the people who suffered the direst distress, bitter feelings still remain toward Japan.


We must recall when Abe visited Yasukuni Shrine three years ago. Suspicions arose in the United States and other nations that he might be a revisionist, and Japan’s relations with China and South Korea deteriorated.


Abe’s words and deeds, which appeared to be trying to justify Japan’s prewar history, hurt the nation’s credibility to no end.


If his Pearl Harbor visit will help dispel these distrusts, we welcome it. Abe must also see to it that a reconciliation between Japan and the United States will lead to the stability and peace of the Asia-Pacific region.


For the Japan-U.S. relationship to function for the public good of the region, Japan needs to deal with its Asian neighbors in total sincerity. And that should help raise Japan’s credibility not only in Asia, but also in the United States and Europe and the entire international community.


In his statement on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Abe vowed to never forget the fact that Japan had once gone against the international order. We hope he will repeat this resolve at Pearl Harbor.


The attack on Pearl Harbor was Japan’s terrible mistake. Based on this remorse, Japan has remained a pacifist nation for more than 70 years to this day.


With the appearance of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, the postwar global order could be in for a shakeup.


Japan’s mission should be to hold fast to the universal principles of democracy and the rule of law and patiently strive to protect the regional order by peaceful means, never putting too much trust in military power, under the current Constitution.


We hope Abe’s Pearl Harbor visit will serve as an occasion for reaffirming this mission and conveying it to Asia and the entire world.

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