Japanese leader Abe won't apologize at Pearl Harbor

  • FILE - In this May 27, 2016 file photo, U.S. President Barack Obama, right, shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, western Japan, as Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the site of the world's first atomic bomb attack. Abe said Monday, Dec. 5, he will visit Pearl Harbor with Obama at the end of this month, becoming the first leader of his country to go to the U.S. Naval base in Hawaii that Japan attacked in 1941, propelling the United States into World War II. Atomic Bomb Dome is seen in the background.

    FILE - In this May 27, 2016 file photo, U.S. President Barack Obama, right, shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, western Japan, as Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the site of the world's first atomic bomb attack. Abe said Monday, Dec. 5, he will visit Pearl Harbor with Obama at the end of this month, becoming the first leader of his country to go to the U.S. Naval base in Hawaii that Japan attacked in 1941, propelling the United States into World War II. Atomic Bomb Dome is seen in the background. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2016 file photo, U.S. President Barack Obama, right, talks with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after they joined leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) for a group photo in Lima, Peru. Abe said Monday, Dec. 5, he will visit Pearl Harbor with Obama at the end of this month, becoming the first leader of his country to go to the U.S. Naval base in Hawaii that Japan attacked in 1941, propelling the United States into World War II.

    FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2016 file photo, U.S. President Barack Obama, right, talks with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after they joined leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) for a group photo in Lima, Peru. Abe said Monday, Dec. 5, he will visit Pearl Harbor with Obama at the end of this month, becoming the first leader of his country to go to the U.S. Naval base in Hawaii that Japan attacked in 1941, propelling the United States into World War II. Associated Press

  • FILE- In this June 3, 2015 file photo released by the U.S. Navy, sailors work to repair the floating dock next to the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, after the USNS Mercy hospital ship struck the memorial's dock in May as it was leaving Pearl Harbor.  Japan's leader says he will visit Pearl Harbor with U.S. President Barack Obama at the end of this month. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday, Dec. 5, 2016, he will visit Hawaii in late December and hold a final summit meeting there with Obama before the American leader leaves office. (Laurie Dexter/The U.S. Navy via AP, File)

    FILE- In this June 3, 2015 file photo released by the U.S. Navy, sailors work to repair the floating dock next to the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, after the USNS Mercy hospital ship struck the memorial's dock in May as it was leaving Pearl Harbor. Japan's leader says he will visit Pearl Harbor with U.S. President Barack Obama at the end of this month. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday, Dec. 5, 2016, he will visit Hawaii in late December and hold a final summit meeting there with Obama before the American leader leaves office. (Laurie Dexter/The U.S. Navy via AP, File) Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Dec. 29, 2011 file photo, U.S. President Barack Obama lays a wreath at the USS Arizona Memorial, part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he will visit Pearl Harbor with Obama in late December. Abe announced the plan on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016.

    FILE - In this Dec. 29, 2011 file photo, U.S. President Barack Obama lays a wreath at the USS Arizona Memorial, part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he will visit Pearl Harbor with Obama in late December. Abe announced the plan on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Dec. 29, 2011 file photo, U.S. President Barack Obama, foreground right, and first lady Michelle Obama, second right, stand together with Adm. Robert Willard, left, and his wife Donna after dropping flowers into the water at the USS Arizona Memorial, part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he will visit Pearl Harbor at the end of this month. Abe announced the plan Monday, Dec. 5, 2016.

    FILE - In this Dec. 29, 2011 file photo, U.S. President Barack Obama, foreground right, and first lady Michelle Obama, second right, stand together with Adm. Robert Willard, left, and his wife Donna after dropping flowers into the water at the USS Arizona Memorial, part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he will visit Pearl Harbor at the end of this month. Abe announced the plan Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 12/5/2016 10:18 PM

TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won't apologize for Japan's attack when he visits the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor later this month, the government spokesman said Tuesday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that "the purpose of the upcoming visit is to pay respects for the war dead and not to offer an apology."

 

Abe announced late Monday that he would have a summit meeting with President Barack Obama in Hawaii and visit Pearl Harbor. He will be the first Japanese leader to go to the site of the Japanese attack that propelled the United States into World War II.

The unexpected announcement came two days before the 75th anniversary of the attack and six months after Obama became the first sitting American president to visit Hiroshima for victims of the U.S. atomic bombing of that city at the end of the same war.

"We must never repeat the tragedy of the war," Abe said. "I would like to send this commitment. At the same time, I would like to send a message of reconciliation between Japan and the U.S."

The White House confirmed that Obama and Abe would visit the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 27. It said "the two leaders' visit will showcase the power of reconciliation that has turned former adversaries into the closest of allies, united by common interests and shared values."

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Defense Secretary Ash Carter, on an official trip to Japan, said he would tell Abe at a meeting later Tuesday how pleased Obama and the U.S. are.

The announcement of the summit comes as Japan worries about the direction of U.S. foreign policy under Obama's successor, Donald Trump.

Tsuneo Watanabe, a senior research fellow at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, said that together with Obama's visit to Hiroshima, the Pearl Harbor visit will complete the reconciliation process and help smooth bilateral relations under any administration.

"Historical disputes tend to be brought up when relations become thorny ... but once you put them behind and move on, it makes a difference if there is any negative sentiment in the future," he said.

But Koichi Nakano, a professor of international politics at Tokyo's Sophia University, said the Pearl Harbor visit and Abe's commitment to the Japan-U.S. alliance are tantamount to "giving a blank check to Trump" despite the uncertainty over bilateral relations under his administration.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

More than 2,300 U.S. servicemen died in the aerial attack, which will be marked Wednesday at Pearl Harbor with a remembrance ceremony and a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., when the Japanese planes hit their first target.

Three and a half years later, the war came to an end after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and on Nagasaki three days later. Japan surrendered on Aug. 15.

___

Associated Press writers Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Josh Lederman in Washington, D.C., and Koji Ueda in Yokosuka, Japan, contributed to this story.

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