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Obama, Abe to stress “power of reconciliation” in Pearl Harbor remarks

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, Kyodo — U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are expected to highlight “the power of reconciliation” at a ceremony they will attend next week in Hawaii to remember those killed in Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, a White House official said Wednesday.


Obama is expected to say Tuesday’s event will be “a demonstration of the strength of our alliance” and “a powerful demonstration of how the two countries can overcome a very painful history to become the closest of allies and friends,” Daniel Kritenbrink, senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council, said at a press briefing.


Kritenbrink also said that based on communications with his Japanese counterparts and Abe’s own comments, Washington believes the Japanese leader is “approaching this event from a similar perspective.”


Obama and Abe will make “brief remarks” during a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, with the United States inviting a number of World War II veterans and survivors and representatives of veterans service organizations to the event, he said.


Abe’s two-day trip to Hawaii from Monday will follow Obama’s historic trip in May to Hiroshima, where the United States dropped the first of two atomic bombs in 1945 to bring about Japan’s surrender.


Kritenbrink said he hopes to see interaction between veterans who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor and the leaders of the two former World War II foes, akin to the exchanges that were witnessed in Hiroshima involving atomic bomb survivors, also known as hibakusha.


“I thought one of the most powerful aspects of President Obama’s Hiroshima visit was the moment that he was able to meet with the hibakusha,” he said. “So I’m hopeful that perhaps there can be some similar interaction in Hawaii between our leaders of today and those who survived the events from 1941.”


Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, and Abe will be the first sitting Japanese prime minister to pay homage to the dead at the memorial built above the sunken battleship USS Arizona.


The attack on Pearl Harbor killed about 2,400 U.S. military personnel and civilians and sank a number of U.S. warships including the Arizona.


Earlier Tuesday, Obama and Abe will hold a meeting at which they will “have an opportunity to review their joint efforts over the past four years to strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance, as well as our close cooperation and partnership during that time on a range of security, economic and global challenges,” according to Kritenbrink.


Asked whether the two leaders will discuss talks Abe had with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Japan earlier this month, the White House official did not respond directly and said a good deal of time will be spent reviewing and celebrating the achievements the two allies have made over the last eight and particularly the last four years.


After serving two four-year terms, Obama will be succeeded by President-elect Donald Trump on Jan. 20. Abe has been serving his second premiership since December 2012.

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