In Pearl Harbor visit, a symbol of reconciliation in Japan
nytimes.com -- Dec 26
As recently as five years ago, a Japanese prime minister was in Hawaii for an economic summit meeting, but pointedly stayed away from Pearl Harbor.

In the coming week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will fly to Hawaii for the express purpose of visiting the site of the surprise attack on a United States naval base 75 years ago that killed 2,400 Americans and drew the country into World War II.

It is a sign of how far public opinion in Japan has moved that Mr. Abe can make the trip to the memorial, accompanied by President Obama, to offer condolences to the victims.

For decades, Japan has struggled to reckon with its wartime history, and the Pearl Harbor attack has been cast as a tragic but inevitable response to an American-led oil embargo that would have devastated the Japanese imperial empire.

Because of domestic political opposition, it has been all but impossible for Japanese leaders to visit Pearl Harbor until now. In 1994, when Emperor Akihito tried to visit the memorial, atop the remains of the U.S.S. Arizona, the American battleship on which the worst losses occurred, protests from Japan's nationalist right wing prompted him to alter his plans.

But after Mr. Abe, who is a conservative politician with strong ties to nationalist groups, announced his plans this month, the reception in Japan was largely positive.

Even the far-right Sankei newspaper - though grumbling that Mr. Abe should first revisit Yasukuni, a shrine in Tokyo where war criminals are buried - described Mr. Abe's trip to Hawaii as "an opportunity to refresh a commitment to deepen the U.S.-Japan friendship and contribute peace to the world through a tranquil ceremony."

Some Japanese news media suggested that the Pearl Harbor trip could even lift Mr. Abe's approval ratings and give him the confidence to call an election in January.

News source: nytimes.com
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