Hawaii, Dec 27 (IANS) Japanese Prime Minister arrived in Hawaii on Monday, one day ahead of his visit to Pearl Harbor, the US naval base attacked by the Japanese in 1941 resulting in the deaths of 2,403 Americans.
The two-day trip’s main highlight is the visit to the USS Arizona Memorial with President Barack Obama, making Abe the first Japanese leader to visit the memorial to the battleship that was sunk on December 7, 1941, the Japan Times reported on Tuesday.
The late Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida visited Pearl Harbor in 1951, but before the memorial site was built. Two other postwar premiers, Ichiro Hatoyama and Abe’s grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, visited the US Pacific Command at Pearl Harbor in the 1950s, government officials have confirmed.
“Together with President Obama, I would like to express to the world this pledge for the future and the value of reconciliation,” Abe told reporters before leaving Japan.
The visit comes seven months after Obama became the first sitting president to visit a park in Hiroshima dedicated to the estimated 200,000-plus people who were killed when the US dropped two atomic bombs on that city and Nagasaki in August 1945.
After arriving on Monday morning at the Hickam Air Force base here, which Japanese fighter planes strafed on the morning of December 7, 1941, Abe spent the day visiting the cemeteries of US servicemen killed in the Pacific War and Japanese immigrants to Hawaii, as well as a memorial to Japanese students and crew who perished on the Ehime Maru training ship when it sank off Oahu in a collision with a surfacing US submarine.
Abe is scheduled to stop by a memorial dedicated to Lt. Fusata Iida, who crashed his airplane on a hillside during the December 7, 1941, attack in what Americans later called Japan’s first kamikaze suicide attack of the war.
The Prime Minister also laid a wreath at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, where over 13,000 soldiers and sailors who died during the Pacific War were laid to rest.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Tomomi Inada are accompanying Abe on his trip, which concludes after a last meeting with Obama and their joint visit to the USS Arizona Memorial on Tuesday.