Japanese leader Shinzo Abe is reportedly planning to visit Pearl Harbour on his way to a summit with US President Barack Obama later this year, the first time a Japanese prime minister will have visited the site of the surprise attack in December 1941 that brought the United States into the second world war. Abe is scheduled to visit Washington in late April or early May for discussions with the US leader about the Japan-US alliance and the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement. "The prime minister can demonstrate his desire for a framework for international peace by paying his solemn respects to the dead," a government official told the Mainichi newspaper, apparently confirming rumours Abe would stop in Hawaii. "As allies, the strong ties between Japan and the United States have been maintained and American ill-feeling towards Japan for deeds of the past continues to weaken." The Japanese leader is expected to use the official Spring visit to underline Tokyo's commitment to ensuring peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region. In the year that marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war, he will also reiterate regret for the suffering caused by Japan's military during the early decades of the last century. "I believe this gesture indicates that Abe has no intention of changing the official Japanese view of the war that has been expressed by previous political leaders," said Jun Okumura, a visiting scholar at the Meiji Institute for Global Affairs. On the 50th anniversary of the end of the war in August 1995, then prime minister Tomiichi Murayama expressed his "deep remorse" to all those who had suffered "tremendous damage and suffering" as a result of his nation's aggression. Two years previously, chief cabinet secretary Yohei Kono issued a statement expressing regret for the Japanese military's policy of rounding up young women in conquered territories and forcing them to become "comfort women" for its service personnel. "By doing this on what can be termed 'friendly turf' - not in Beijing, not in Seoul - Abe is simultaneously sending a positive signal to China and South Korea while not incurring the wrath of his more conservative supporters," Okumura said. Any such explicit apology in the United States would be in contrast to the Abe government's unbending stance on other elements of history that have upset nations that were invaded and occupied by Japan in the past. It emerged this week that Japan filed an official complaint with the Chinese government in late December after President Xi Jinping stated that 300,000 people died in the Nanking Massacre in 1937. Kyodo News quoted a Japanese government official as saying that it informed China through diplomatic channels that the number of dead Xi claimed is "different from Japan's position" and that it is "difficult to determine" the exact number of victims. Critics are likely to use any apology in the US to accuse Abe of pandering to his closest diplomatic and security ally while refusing to unequivocally extend the same meaningful expressions of regret to countries that were affected far more deeply and for a longer period of time.