WASHINGTON, Dec 8 – President Barack Obama on Wednesday praised the alliance between Japan and the United States exactly 75 years after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbour that led to America’s entrance into World War II. President-elect Donald Trump also marked the milestone anniversary with a message praising the “American heroes” who died in the raid.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to make a historic visit to a memorial in Pearl Harbour later this month – the first such visit by a Japanese leader – when Obama is scheduled to join him. Obama in a statement said As a testament that even the most bitter of adversaries can become the closest of allies, he will look forward to visiting the USS Arizona Memorial later this month along with (Abe)
“This historic visit will stand as a tribute to the power of reconciliation and to the truth that the United States and Japan – bound by an alliance unimaginable 75 years ago – will continue to work hand-in-hand for a more peaceful and secure world,” he added.
Japan’s devastating attack on Dec 7, 1941 caught America off guard, sinking or heavily damaging eight US battleships. The two-hour assault killed 2,403 Americans and injured more than 1,100 others. Abe’s visit to Hawaii will come a few months after Obama visited Hiroshima, where a US bomber dropped one of two atomic bombs that would lead to Japan’s surrender. Japanese officials say Abe will not be making an apology for the Pearl Harbour attack, but commemorate the war’s victims.
‘Heroism of a generation’
Recalling the huge death toll from Pearl Harbour, Obama underscored how those soldiers’ sacrifices galvanised the resolve of millions of US troops and civilians. Obama said in the hours after the attack, President Roosevelt promised that ‘the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.
He said: “Thanks to the heroism of a generation, we did.” Trump sent out his own statement praising those killed and wounded at Pearl Harbour. Trump said their shared sacrifice reminds them of the great costs paid by those who came before us to secure the liberties they enjoy, and inspires them to rise to meet the new challenges that stand before us today.
Trump said this, while Vice-President-elect Mike Pence visited a World War II memorial in Washington. Hawaii has organised a string of events and commemorations to mark the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbour attack. With survivors now at least in their 90s, it is possibly the last big-number anniversary they can attend, seen as a “last hurrah”.
US and Japanese representatives on Tuesday visited the wreck of the USS Arizona, where 1,177 sailors and Marines died. The ship’s rusting remains, still visible, are now a memorial. They extended a peace offering by pouring bourbon from a World War II water bottle into the hallowed waters.
During the event, known as the “Blackened Canteen ceremony”, the drink is tipped from a container believed to have been held by a US airman killed in 1945 when his plane collided with another over Japan. A local farmer later recovered the canteen and built monuments to promote peace between Japan and America.
During his May 27 visit to Hiroshima, Obama – the first sitting US president to visit the city – clasped hands with one survivor and hugged another. He reiterated calls for a nuclear-free world, but offered no apology for the atomic bombings, having insisted that he would not revisit decisions made by US president Harry Truman at the close of a brutal war. — AFP