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Japan’s Abe offers “eternal compassion” on Pearl Harbor

  • U.S. President Barack Obama listens to Japanese Prime minister shinzo Abe speaks Kilo Pier overlooking the USS Arizona Memorial, a part of the World War II valor in the Pacific National Monument at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, next to Honolulu, Hawaii, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016, as part of a ceremony honoring those who were killed in the Japanese attack on the naval port. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

    (Associated Press)

  • Pearl Harbor survivors wait for President Barack Obama to speak at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Tuesday, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016, after
    President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime minister shinzo Abe has participated in a wreath laying ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

    (Associated Press)

  • President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime minister shinzo Abe ride in the stern of the CINCPACFLT (Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet of Inland waterway vessels), which is referred to as the Admiral’s Ship, the USS Arizona Memorial, a part of the World War II valor in the Pacific National Monument at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, next to Honolulu, Hawaii, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016, as part of a ceremony honoring those who were killed in the Japanese attack on the naval port. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

    (Associated Press)

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PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii – Under a warm Oahu sun, with the tranquil, turquoise waters of Pearl Harbor behind them, former enemies came together to acknowledge the enormous losses of the Japanese attack on AMERICAN military installations in Hawaii 75 years ago.

“If the prime minister of Japan, I offer my sincere and eternal compassion 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 started in this place” the Japanese Prime minister shinzo Abe said on Tuesday.

The convert of 75 years of resentment behind them, Abe and u.s. President Barack Obama is a historic pilgrimage to the place where the devastating surprise attack sent America to march in the second world War.

After a formal meeting, they placed a pair of green-and-peach wreaths made of lilies aboard the USS Arizona Memorial and threw purple flower petals in the water.

The rusting wreck of the sunken vessel where more than 1,000 U.s. service members are buried can be seen just under the surface of the water.

Obama and Abe closed their eyes and stood still for a few moments before the conclusion of their visit to the memorial and on the way to the nearby Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, where both leaders spoke.

The visit is powerful evidence that the former enemies have transcended the recriminatory impulses that burdened relations after the second world war, the japanese government has said. Although Japanese leaders have visited Pearl Harbor, Abe will be the first to visit the memorial built on the holy waters above the sunken USS Arizona.

For Obama, it is probably the last time that he had a meeting with a foreign leader as president, White House assistants said. It is a bookend of sorts for the president, who almost eight years ago, invited Abe ‘ s predecessor to be the first leader he was housed at the White House.

For Abe, it is an act of symbolic reciprocity, the next six months after Obama became the first sitting president of the united states to visit Hiroshima in Japan, where the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb in the hope of ending the war was after Pearl Harbor.

“This visit and the visit of the president of Hiroshima city earlier this year, would not have been possible eight years ago,” said Daniel Kritenbrink, Obama’s top Asia adviser in the White House. “We are here today is the result of years of efforts at all levels of the government and the society, which has allowed us to jointly and directly with even the most sensitive aspects of our common history.”

More than 2,300 Americans died on Dec. 7, 1941, when more than 300 Japanese fighters and bombers attacked. More than 1,000 others were injured.

In the following years, the US imprisoned about 120,000 Japanese-Americans in internment camps, before they the atomic bomb in 1945, that killed approximately 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 70,000 in Nagasaki.

Abe will not apologize for Pearl Harbor, his government has said. Nor did Obama apologize at Hiroshima in May, a visit that he and Abe used to emphasize their elusive pursuit of a nuclear weapons-free future.

No apologies necessary, said 96-year-old Alfred Rodrigues, a U.S. Navy veteran who survived what President Franklin D. Roosevelt called a “date which will live in infamy.”

“War is war,” Rodrigues said he looked at old photos of his military service. “They did what they had to do, and we did what we had to do.”

Abe’s visit is not without political risks, given the Japanese the long, emotional reckoning with their nation’s aggression in the war. Although the history books are largely considered Pearl Harbor a surprise attack, the japanese government insisted as recently as this month that it was intended to be the U.S. notice that it is to declare war, and not only because of “bureaucratic bungling.”

“There is a feeling of guilt, if you want to, under the Japanese, this ‘Pearl Harbor syndrome,’ that we did something very unfair,” said Tamaki Tsukada, minister in the Embassy of Japan in Washington. “I think the prime minister’s visit will in a sense relieve that kind of complex that Japanese people have.”

Since the war, the united states and Japan have a strong alliance that both sides say has grown during Obama’s term in office, include: the strengthening of the military ties. Both Obama and Abe were the driving forces behind the Trans-Pacific nership, a sweeping free trade deal is now on hold due to strong resistance from the Congress and the President-elect of Donald Trump.

Beyond the painful legacy of the war is easier for Japan and the US than for Japan and other former enemies, such as South Korea and China. If Abe was in Hawaii, Beijing dismissed as “wishful thinking” the idea that Japan could “the liquidation of the history of the second world War” by a visit to Pearl Harbor.

“Japan can never turn this page without the atonement of China and other victim countries in Asia,” said Hua Chunying, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman.

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Associated Press writers Brian Skoloff in Kailua, Hawaii, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Gillian Wong in Beijing contributed to this report.

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Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP

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