Commentary: Prime minister’s speech at Pearl Harbor not convincing, no reference to remorse

by Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writer

It is significant, historically, that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid a visit to Pearl Harbor after U.S. President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima. However, in the speech he delivered at Pearl Harbor, which stressed the importance of reconciliation and the alliance between the two nations, Mr. Abe did not refer to responsibility for the last world war. While he said that Japan will continue to uphold the vow to never again wage war, his speech did not sound persuasive to the peoples of countries who were forced to endure great sacrifices.

In the speech he made before the U.S. Congress last year and the statement he made to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, Mr. Abe used such words as “deep repentance” or “deep remorse.” But he did not use them at Pearl Harbor. It sounded like he wanted to put an end to the “postwar era” now that these reciprocal visits have been realized.

He said that the United States, which suffered the surprise attack, helped Japan enjoy prosperity after the war and he preached the value of “the spirit of tolerance.” This could be interpreted as an attempt to forestall criticism from China and South Korea, which hold differences with Japan over history. Unless Japan takes a sincere attitude toward its own failings, it should not expect others to show tolerance.

The United States will have a new political leader next month. President-elect Donald Trump has declared his intention to enhance his nation’s nuclear arsenal, which could lead to an arms race with Russia. What will Japan do to share the awareness of the inhumanity of nuclear weapons with the new administration and advance a world without nuclear weapons? This can be seen as a touchstone of whether the reciprocal visits can produce meaningful results.

(Originally published on December 29, 2016)