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Rediff.com  » News » Wreaths and hugs: Japan's Abe offers sombre tribute at Pearl Harbor

Wreaths and hugs: Japan's Abe offers sombre tribute at Pearl Harbor

Last updated on: December 28, 2016 09:46 IST

United States President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid somber tribute at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Tuesday to the American service members killed in a surprise attack by the Japanese imperial navy 75 years ago.

IMAGE: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Barack Obama bow their heads during a wreath-laying ceremony aboard the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The two leaders, dressed in dark suits and ties, presented wreaths and bowed their heads in silent respect during a brief tour of the USS Arizona Memorial that commemorates the US sailors and Marines who perished on the battleship on December 7, 1941.

Standing side by side with Abe, Obama said, “It is here that we remember that even when hatred burns hottest, even when the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward. We must resist the urge to demonise those who are different.”

“It is here that we reflect on how war tests our most enduring values,” the two-time US president said, making reference to the internment camps the United States government forced Japanese Americans into during the war.

IMAGE: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe smiles after giving a hug to Pearl Harbor survivor Everett Hyland after giving remarks at Kilo Pier overlooking the USS Arizona Memorial at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii. Photograph: Hugh Gentry/Reuters

Abe is paying his respects to the soldiers who died in his country’s unexpected attack on the Pearl Harbor Naval Base 75 years ago, mirroring a visit Obama made to Hiroshima, the Japanese city the US obliterated at the end of the fight, in May.

The Japanese leader did not say he was sorry on behalf of his country for the military action that took more than 2,400 lives and drew the United States into World War II in 1941, much like Obama did not apologise for dropping atomic bombs on Japan at the end of the international conflict.

IMAGE: Obama releases flower petals following a wreath-laying ceremony with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aboard the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

“President Obama, 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 the souls of the countless innocent people who became victims of the war,” Abe said through a translator.

Continuing, he said, “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 had has resolutely upheld our vow never again to wage war.

IMAGE: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama deliver remarks at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

“We the people of Japan will continue to uphold this unwavering principle, while harbouring quiet pride in the path we have walked as a peace-loving nation over these 70 years since the war ended,” he stated.

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.

IMAGE: A boat carrying US President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe goes by the USS Missouri at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam. Photograph: Kent Nishimura/Getty Images
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