28 Dec 2016

Japan's PM makes historic Pearl Harbour visit

3:22 pm on 28 December 2016

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made a symbolic visit to Pearl Harbour, commemorating World War Two dead and pledging that Japan would never wage war again.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Barack Obama visited Pearl Harbour together.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Barack Obama visited Pearl Harbour together. Photo: AFP

The visit, just weeks before Republican President-elect Donald Trump takes office, was meant to highlight the strength of the US-Japan alliance in the face of a rising China and amid concerns that Mr Trump would have a more complicated relationship with Tokyo.

Mr Abe and US President Barack 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.

Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor with torpedo planes, bombers and fighter planes on 7 December, 1941, pounding the US fleet moored there in the hope of destroying US power in the Pacific.

Abe did not apologise for the attack but said Japan "must never repeat the horrors of war again".

"This is the solemn vow we, the people of Japan, have taken," Mr 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."

Mr Obama - who earlier this year became the first incumbent US president to visit Hiroshima, where the United States dropped an atomic bomb in 1945 - called Mr 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 US veterans who survived the attack.

- Reuters