HONOLULU: Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Hawaii on Monday ahead of a symbolic meeting with President Barack Obama at the site of the Pearl Harbor attack.
Japanese leaders have visited Pearl Harbor before, but Abe will be the first to go to the US Arizona Memorial, the wreck where 1,177 US personnel died.
Tuesday’s visit comes 75 years after Japan’s December 1941 attack on the base of the US Pacific fleet, drawing America into World War II.
And it comes seven months after Obama and Abe made a joint visit to the Japanese city of Hiroshima, which was devastated by a US atomic bomb in 1945.
Before leaving Japan, Abe said he was to visit the Pearl Harbor memorial because: “We must not repeat the horror of war ever again.”
“Together with President Obama, I would like to express to the world this pledge for the future and the value of reconciliation,” he told reporters.
On December 7, 1941 a Japanese air armada descended on the Hawaiian naval base without warning, sinking much of the fleet and killing 2,400 people.
Washington had been hesitating about joining a war that had already plunged Europe into chaos, but the Japanese attack forced its hand.
The moving memorial, appearing to float above the rusting remains of the USS Arizona, attracts two million tourists, pilgrims and veterans every year.
The curved-roofed white building was put in place in the 1960s to memorialise what president Franklin Roosevelt dubbed the “day that will live in infamy.”
Inside are engraved the names of crewmen who died in the attack.
Abe is not expected to formally apologise in the name of Japan but, as Obama did at Hiroshima, will celebrate today’s friendship between the former foes.
On Monday, Abe was expected to tour other sites near the Hawaiian state capital, Honolulu, including the National Memorial Cemetery of the pacific.
Known colloquially as the Punchbowl, it is the final resting place for more than 13,000 American veterans of the war in the Pacific.
Abe will also pay tribute to the nine Japanese crew and students who drowned in February 2001 when the fishing vessel Ehime Maru collided with a US sub.