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Legacy of war in Asia

Japan's Abe pays respects at Hawaii memorials ahead of Pearl Harbour ceremony

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 December, 2016, 1:55pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 December, 2016, 10:08pm

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stopped at several memorials in Hawaii, before he will visit the site of the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbour during a trip intended to show a strong alliance between his country and the United States.

Abe made no public remarks and stood in silence before a wreath of flowers at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, a memorial to people who died while serving in the US Armed Forces.

Abe, joined by two of his Cabinet members, bowed his head before wreaths of white flowers and greenery laid at the feet of stone monuments at Makiki Cemetery in Honolulu dedicated to Japanese who settled in Hawaii in the 1800s.

The crowning event of the trip comes Tuesday Hawaii time, when Abe and US President Barack Obama will visit Pearl Harbour, the site of the Japanese attack 75 years ago that drew the United States into the second world war. Obama, who was born in Hawaii, is spending his winter vacation there.

Abe does not plan to apologise for the 1941 attack but to console the souls of those who died in the war, his aides said this month.

Japan hopes to present a strong alliance with the United States amid concerns about China’s expanding military capability. Japan was monitoring a group of Chinese warships that entered the top half of the South China Sea earlier on Monday.

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“We must never repeat the devastation of war,” Abe told reporters in Tokyo before departing for Honolulu. “Together with President Obama, I want to tell the world of this pledge for the future and of the value of reconciliation,” added Abe, who has previously called US-Japan relations “an alliance of hope”.

Japanese leaders hope to send a message of unity as well to US president-elect Donald Trump, who triggered concerns before his November 8 election by opposing the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and threatening to force allied countries to pay more to host US forces.

Abe has tightened ties with Washington during his four years in office, stretching the limits of Japan’s pacifist constitution and boosting defence spending.

Amid wind and rain on Monday, Abe presented a wreath at the armed forces memorial located at Honolulu’s Punchbowl Crater. After a moment of silence, he signed a guestbook and then stopped at the grave of former US Senator Daniel Inouye, who fought in the second world war in Europe and whose parents were Japanese. He died in 2012.

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Abe’s visit will come seven months after Obama became the first serving US president to visit the Japanese city of Hiroshima, where the United States dropped an atomic bomb in the closing days of the war in 1945.

At least three Japanese premier’s have visited Pearl Harbour in the past, but the Japanese government says Abe will be the first to pray for the dead with a US president at the memorial built over the remains of the sunken battleship USS Arizona.