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Commentary: Abe should visit Yasukuni following reaffirmation of peaceful alliance at Pearl Harbor

Abe’s visit to Pearl Harbor was truly significant as it impressed on the international community the strength of Japan-U.S. alliance based upon “the power of reconciliation.” The strong ties between the two countries are the foundation of regional stability. We must further reinforce this power of deterrence in the future.


We are genuinely pleased that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Obama came together to pay homage to the people who died during the war between the two countries at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, where the conflict began.


The two leaders honored every soldier and civilian, both Japanese and American, who died in the war, and offered their sincere condolences.


Strengthen deterrence against China


This was the first time for the Japanese and American heads of state to visit Pearl Harbor together since the attack 75 years ago.


Abe and Obama both stressed the importance of their pledge never to wage war again and the reconciliation between the two nations. On the basis of this, they reaffirmed the nations’ commitment to the alliance with the aim of ensuring peace and prosperity throughout the the Asia-Pacific region and the world.


The most serious potential source of instability is the threat posed by China’s military emergence. It should be noted that during their summit meeting held prior to the Pearl Harbor visit, Abe and Obama discussed the advancement of a Chinese aircraft carrier into the Western Pacific and agreed to monitor its movements closely.


At the meeting, the leaders agreed to ensure that the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean remain free and open, in cooperation with Australia and India. They also confirmed that they will work together to address the issue of North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile development.


After U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated in January, he and Abe will be responsible for formulating actual measures. The cooperation between Japan and the U.S. must be maintained and reinforced.


In his speech, Obama made a positive remark on the Japan-U.S. alliance, saying, that it “has helped underwrite an international order that has prevented another World War.” This means that If the alliance becomes unstable, it might potentially lead to a crisis that could turn into a major war.


Abe emphasized the “unwavering principle” never again to wage war. Maintaining and strengthening the alliance can be said to be tantamount to avoiding war.


A stronger Japan-U.S. alliance and enhanced Self-Defense Forces as a result of the security legislation and improved defense capabilities will deter conflicts. We must explain to the international community as well as to the Japanese people that our efforts are aimed at achieving peace through deterrence.


This is indispensable in realizing what Abe refers to as an “alliance of hope” to address “the many challenges covering the globe.”


Abe’s visit to Pearl Harbor was not linked to Obama’s visit to Hiroshima. We would like to point out that these visits do not represent the first time our two nations achieved reconciliation.


Our countries have long been reconciled. We share the rule of law, democracy, and other common values.


It is wrong to criticize Abe’s speech for not including an apology, because the visit was “not for the purpose of offering apologies, but for offering condolences.” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga was right when he said that the significance of the visit lies in the message it conveys that “Japan will cooperate with the U.S. and contribute to achieving peace and stability in the world.”


Tolerance trumps hatred


Our two countries are mature enough to uphold the spirit of tolerance instead of hatred. That is why neither party required apologies from the other in Hiroshima or in Hawaii.


To begin with, the historic perceptions of the war held by Japan and the U.S. do not coincide. The Pearl Harbor attack has been etched in the hearts of Americans as a “day of shame,” while the Japanese people associate the same event with a significant victory in a battle where the nation’s existence was at stake.


It goes without saying that  we are both democratic nations where freedom of thought and speech are protected. The Western media have generally seen Abe’s visit in a positive light.


On the other hand, a press officer from the Chinese Foreign Ministry called for Japan to apologize, saying, “Japan should be deeply remorseful for its history of invasion.” China steadfastly asserts its own version of history and never gives up on insisting that Japan offer apologies.


In 1997, then Chinese president Jiang Zemin made a point of stopping in Hawaii on the way to visit the lay flowers at Pearl Harbor. His aim was to make Japan a common enemy of China and the U.S.


The Japan-U.S. alliance is a huge obstacle for China, which aims to change the status quo by force. Japan must be prepared to defend itself against China’s use of history to drive a wedge between Japan and the U.S.


On this occasion we would like to reiterate our request for the prime minister to visit Yasukuni Shrine. In October of 1951, when Japan was still under the U.S. occupation, then Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida visited Yasukuni to convey to the war dead that Japan had signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty. Abe’s visit to Pearl Harbor definitely deserves a similar visit.

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