Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won’t apologize for Japan’s attack when he visits the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbour later this month, the government spokesman said Tuesday.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that “the purpose of the upcoming visit is to pay respects for the war dead and not to offer an apology.”
Abe announced late Monday that he would have a summit meeting with President Barack Obama in Hawaii and visit Pearl Harbour. He will be the first Japanese leader to go to the site of the Japanese attack that propelled the United States into World War II.
The unexpected announcement came two days before the 75th anniversary of the attack and six months after Obama became the first sitting American president to visit Hiroshima for victims of the US atomic bombing of that city at the end of the same war.
“We must never repeat the tragedy of the war,” Abe said. “I would like to send this commitment. At the same time, I would like to send a message of reconciliation between Japan and the US.”
The White House confirmed that Obama and Abe would visit the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor on December 27. It said “the two leaders’ visit will showcase the power of reconciliation that has turned former adversaries into the closest of allies, united by common interests and shared values.”
Defense Secretary Ash Carter, on an official trip to Japan, said he would tell Abe at a meeting later Tuesday how pleased Obama and the US are.
The announcement of the summit comes as Japan worries about the direction of US foreign policy under Obama’s successor, Donald Trump.
Tsuneo Watanabe, a senior research fellow at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, said that together with Obama’s visit to Hiroshima, the Pearl Harbour visit will complete the reconciliation process and help smooth bilateral relations under any administration.