The visit, just weeks before Republican President-elect Donald Trump takes office, was meant to highlight the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance in the face of a rising China and amid concerns that Trump would have a more complicated relationship with Tokyo.
Abe and Obama commemorated the dead at the USS Arizona Memorial, built over the remains of the sunken battleship. Abe became the first Japanese prime minister to visit the memorial, a centerpiece of the historic site.
"We must never repeat the horrors of war again. This is the solemn vow we, the people of Japan, have taken," Abe said.
"To the souls of the servicemen who lie in eternal rest aboard the USS Arizona, to the American people, and to all the peoples around the world, I pledge that unwavering vow here as the prime minister of Japan," he said.
Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor with torpedo planes, bombers and fighter planes on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, pounding the U.S. fleet moored there in the hope of destroying U.S. power in the Pacific.
Abe did not apologize for the attack.
Obama, who earlier this year became the first incumbent U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, where the United States dropped an atomic bomb in 1945, called Abe's visit a "historic gesture" that was "a reminder that even the deepest wounds of war can give way to friendship and a lasting peace."
The two leaders stood solemnly in front of a wall inscribed with the names of those who died in the 1941 attack and they took part in a brief wreath-laying ceremony, followed by a moment of silence.
"In Remembrance, Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan" was written on one wreath and "In Remembrance, Barack Obama, President of the United States" on the other.
They then threw flower petals into the water.
After their remarks, both leaders greeted U.S. veterans who survived the attack.
Japan hopes to present a strong alliance with the United States amid concerns about China's expanding military capability.
The leaders' meeting was also meant to reinforce the U.S.-Japan partnership ahead of the Jan. 20 inauguration of Trump, whose opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and campaign threat to force allied countries to pay more to host U.S. forces raised concerns among allies such as Japan.
Abe met with Trump in New York in November and called him a "trustworthy leader."
Obama called for a world without nuclear arms during his visit to Hiroshima. Trump last week called for the United States to "greatly strengthen and expand" its nuclear capability and reportedly welcomed an international arms race.
Shinzo Abe at Pearl Harbor: ‘Rest in Peace, Precious Souls of the Fallen’
|© REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque Japanese Prime Minister Abe and U.S. President Obama deliver remarks at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam|
President Obama, Commander Harris, ladies and gentlemen, and all American citizens:
I stand here at Pearl Harbor as the prime minister of Japan.
If we listen closely we can make out the sound of restless waves, breaking and then retreating again. The calm inlet of brilliant blue is radiant with the gentle sparkle of the warm sun.
Behind me, a striking white form atop the azure, is the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial.
Together with President Obama, I paid a visit to that memorial, the resting place for many souls.
It was a place which brought utter silence to me.
Inscribed there are the names of the servicemen who lost their lives.
At Hiroshima Memorial, Obama Says Nuclear Arms Require ‘Moral Revolution’ MAY 27, 2016
Sailors and marines hailing from California and New York, Michigan and Texas, and various other places, serving to uphold their noble duty of protecting the homeland they loved, lost their lives amidst searing flames that day, when aerial bombing tore the U.S.S. Arizona in two.
Even 75 years later, the U.S.S. Arizona, now at rest atop the seabed, is the final resting place for a tremendous number of sailors and marines.
Listening again as I focus my senses, alongside the song of the breeze and the rumble of the rolling waves, I can almost discern the voices of those crewmen.
Voices of lively conversations, upbeat and at ease, on that day, on a Sunday morning.
Voices of young servicemen talking to each other about their futures and dreams.
Voices calling out the names of loved ones in their very final moments.
Voices praying for the happiness of children still unborn.
Each and every one of those servicemen had a mother and a father anxious about his safety.
Many had wives and girlfriends they loved. And many must have had children they would have loved to watch grow up.
All of that was brought to an end. When I contemplate that solemn reality, I am rendered entirely speechless.
“Rest in peace, precious souls of the fallen.”
With that sentiment, I cast flowers on behalf of Japanese people, upon the waters where those sailors and marines sleep.
President Obama, the people of the United States of America, and the people around the world,
As the prime minister of Japan, I offer my sincere and everlasting condolences to the souls of those who lost their lives here, as well as to the spirits of all the brave men and women whose lives were taken by a war that commenced in this very place, and also to the souls of the countless innocent people who became victims of the war.
We must never repeat the horrors of war again.
This is the solemn vow we, the people of Japan, have taken. And since the war, we have created a free and democratic country that values the rule of law and has resolutely upheld our vow never again to wage war.
We, the people of Japan, will continue to uphold this unwavering principle, while harboring quiet pride in the path we have walked as a peace-loving nation over these 70 years since the war ended.
To the souls of the servicemen who lie in eternal rest aboard the U.S.S. Arizona, to the American people, and to all peoples around the world, I pledge that unwavering vow here as the prime minister of Japan.
Yesterday, at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, I visited the memorial marker for an Imperial Japanese Navy officer.
He was a fighter pilot by the name of Commander Fusata Iida who was hit during the attack on Pearl Harbor and gave up on returning to his aircraft carrier. He went back instead and died.
It was not Japanese who erected a marker at the site that Iida’s fighter plane crashed. It was U.S. servicemen who had been on the receiving end of his attack. Applauding the bravery of the dead pilot, they erected this stone marker.
On the marker, his rank at that time is inscribed, “Lieutenant, Imperial Japanese Navy, ”showing their respect toward a serviceman who gave his life for his country.
“The brave respect the brave.”
So wrote Ambrose Bierce in a famous poem.
Showing respect even to an enemy they fought against; trying to understand even an enemy that they hated — therein lies the spirit of tolerance embraced by the American people.
When the war ended and Japan was a nation in burnt-out ruins as far as the eye could see, suffering under abject poverty, it was the United States, and its good people, that unstintingly sent us food to eat and clothes to wear.
The Japanese people managed to survive and make their way toward the future thanks to the sweaters and milk sent by the American people.
And it was the United States that opened up the path for Japan to return to the international community once more after the war.
Under the leadership of the United States, we, as a member of the free world, were able to enjoy peace and prosperity.
The good will and assistance you extended to us Japanese, the enemy you had fought so fiercely, together with the tremendous spirit of tolerance were etched deeply into the hearts and minds of our grandfathers and mothers.
We also remember them. Our children and grandchildren will also continue to pass these memories down and never forget what you did for us.
The words pass through my mind; those words inscribed on the wall at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., where I visited with President Obama.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all… let us strive on… to do all which may achieve and cherish a… lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
These are the words of President Abraham Lincoln.
On behalf of the Japanese people, I hereby wish to express once again my heartfelt gratitude to the United States and to the world for the tolerance extended to Japan.
It has now been 75 years since that “Pearl Harbor.” Japan and the United States, which fought a fierce war that will go down in the annals of human history, have become allies with deep and strong ties rarely found anywhere in history.
We are allies that will tackle together, to an even greater degree than ever before, the many challenges covering the globe.
Ours is an “alliance of hope” that will lead us to the future.
What has bonded us together is the power of reconciliation, made possible through the spirit of tolerance.
What I want to appeal to the people of the world, here at Pearl Harbor, together with President Obama, is this power of reconciliation.
Even today, the horrors of war have not been eradicated from the surface of the world.There is no end to the spiral where hatred creates hatred.
The world needs the spirit of tolerance and the power of reconciliation now — and especially now.
Japan and the United States, which have eradicated hatred and cultivated friendship and trust on the basis of common values, are now, and especially now, taking responsibility for appealing to the world about the importance of tolerance and the power of reconciliation.
That is precisely why the Japan-U.S. alliance is “an alliance of hope.”
The inlet gazing at us is tranquil as far as the eye can see.
It is precisely this beautiful inlet, shimmering like pearls, that is a symbol of tolerance and reconciliation.
It is my wish that our Japanese children, and President Obama, your American children, and indeed their children and grandchildren, and people all around the world, will continue to remember Pearl Harbor as the symbol of reconciliation.
We will spare no efforts to continue our endeavors to make that wish a reality.Together with President Obama, I hereby make my steadfast pledge.
Thank you very much.
Shinzo Abe visits Pearl Harbor in what Barack Obama calls 'historic gesture'
Barack Obama said Shinzo Abe’s visit to Pearl Harbor was a “historic gesture” that showed the power of reconciliation.
Speaking at Pearl Harbor alongside the Japanese prime minister on Tuesday afternoon, the first such joint visit by US and Japanese leaders, Obama said that Abe’s presence was a reminder that wars could end and enemies could become allies.
It showed that “the fruits of peace always outweigh the plunder of war”, the US president said.
Obama also said that the US-Japan relationship was now a cornerstone of peace in the world and that the alliance had never been stronger.
Abe offered “sincere and everlasting condolences” to the US service members who died when his country attacked Pearl Harbor, sending the US into the second world war.
Japanese leaders have visited Pearl Harbor before, but Abe is the first Japanese leader to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, honoring those who died in Pearl Harbor during the second world war, and the first to visit Pearl Harbor with a US president.
The prime minister did not apologize for the attack but said “we must never repeat the horrors of war again.” He paid tribute to the “brave men and women” who were killed, saying it was important to show respect even to a former enemy.
The two world leaders laid wreaths and tossed flower petals into the water aboard the USS Arizona Memorial to honor those who died at Pearl Harbor. The rusting wreckage of the sunken ship where more than 1,000 American service members are entombed can be seen just under the water’s surface.
Obama and Abe closed their eyes and stood silently for a few moments before concluding their visit to the memorial. Then they boarded a boat to take them to nearby Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, where they spoke.
The two leaders greeted survivors in the crowd, shaking hands and hugging some of the men who fought in the 7 December 1941 battle.
The visit, Japan’s government has said, is powerful proof that the former enemies have transcended the recriminatory impulses that weighed down relations after the war.
It’s a bookend of sorts for the president, who nearly eight years ago invited Abe’s predecessor to be the first leader he hosted at the White House.
For Abe, it’s an act of symbolic reciprocity, coming six months after Obama became the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima in Japan, where the US dropped an atomic bomb in hopes of ending the war it entered after Pearl Harbor.
“This visit, and the president’s visit to Hiroshima earlier this year, would not have been possible eight years ago,” said Daniel Kritenbrink, Obama’s top Asia adviser in the White House. “That we are here today is the result of years of efforts at all levels of our government and societies, which has allowed us to jointly and directly deal with even the most sensitive aspects of our shared history.”
In the years after Japan’s attack, the US incarcerated about 120,000 Japanese Americans in internment camps before dropping atomic bombs in 1945 that killed about 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 70,000 in Nagasaki.
Obama did not apologize at Hiroshima in May, a visit that he and Abe used to emphasize their elusive aspirations for a nuclear-free future. Nor did Abe on Tuesday.
No apology needed, said 96-year-old Alfred Rodrigues, a US navy veteran who survived what then president Franklin D Roosevelt called a “date which will live in infamy”.
“War is war,” Rodrigues said as he looked at old photos of his military service. “They were doing what they were supposed to do, and we were doing what we were supposed to do.”
Since the war, the US and Japan have built a powerful alliance that both sides say has grown during Obama’s tenure, including strengthened military ties. Both Obama and Abe were driving forces behind the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a sweeping free trade deal now on hold due to staunch opposition by Congress and President-elect Donald Trump.