Japan: Abe’s historic plan to visit Pearl Harbor draws mixed responses
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Japan: Abe’s historic plan to visit Pearl Harbor draws mixed responses

JAPANESE Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to visit Pearl Harbor this month has triggered mixed reactions in the country, with some praising the leader for a maneuver they dubbed as forward-thinking and diplomatic, while others dismissed it as a populist move to gain support.

According to Japan Today, survivors of the U.S. atomic bombings on Japan are among those who have voiced their opinions on the matter.

“More than 70 years have passed (since the end of the war) and it seems to be too late,” said Sunao Tsuboi, a 91-year-old atomic bomb survivor of the Hiroshima attack. Pearl Harbor was site of the surprise Japanese attack that triggered the U.S.’s entry into World War II. It was this attack that subsequently led to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the final stages of the war.

Tsuboi, however, noted that the move can be seen as “future-minded,” as both countries had lost people in the war.

The daily also quoted a member of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council, who said he believes Abe’s move could be part of efforts to “demonstrate the importance” of the close ties between the former adversaries.


The USS Arizona Memorial and USS Battleship Missouri Memorial can be seen from the air in Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii December 5, 2016. Source: Reuters/Hugh Gentry

However, not everyone is pleased by visit planned for Dec 26 to 27.

Kuniyoshi Takimoto, an aircraft carrier maintenance personnel who took part in the assault on Pearl Harbor criticised it, claiming Abe was just trying to “score points” to gain popularity.

“Japan is like a country that is under the rule of the United States and the prime minister is just hoping to keep the bond strong,” Japan Today quoted him saying.

Others have taken to Facebook to voice their thoughts on Abe’s planned trip to the harbor – the first for any sitting Japanese prime minister – which comes just weeks after the 75th anniversary of the December attack in 1941.

There were also some who were more welcoming of the premier’s move to visit the iconic site in Hawaii.

The New York Times also quoted a U.S. veteran who welcomed Abe’s visit.

“The war is long over and Japan and the United States are now the strongest of allies,” said Joe Davis, a spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.

SEE ALSO: Shinzo Abe to become first Japanese PM to visit Pearl Harbor

Abe said Monday that the historic trip would be to “console the souls of the victims”.

“I would like to show to the world the resolve that horrors of war should never be repeated,” he told reporters.

According to the Mainichi newspaper, however, a Japanese government spokesperson has insisted that Abe will not apologise for the attack during the trip.

“This visit is an opportunity to remember those who died in war, demonstrate a resolve that the horrors of war must never be repeated, and at the same time send a message about the reconciliation between Japan and the United States,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference.

Abe’s visit to Pearl Harbor comes after U.S. President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima in May this year , where he paid respect to victims of the world’s first deployed atomic bomb.

SEE ALSO: Obama calls for ‘world without nuclear weapons’ in historic Hiroshima visit

According to the CNN, Abe’s wife, Akie Abe, also paid a quiet visit to Pearl Harbor and the Arizona memorial in August this year. This had in turn fueled speculation that her husband would do the same, although Japanese officials said there were no plans for him to do so.

The site also noted that the Japanese first lady posted pictures of her visit on her public Facebook page, showing her praying and shaking hands with a veteran during her two hour visit to the Arizona Memorial.