Saturday 24 February 2018

Japan PM's condolences for WW2 dead

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe takes part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the National World War Two Memorial in Washington (AP)
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe takes part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the National World War Two Memorial in Washington (AP)

Prime minister Shinzo Abe has offered solemn condolences for the Americans who died in the Second World War as he became the first Japanese leader to address a joint meeting of Congress.

"My dear friends, on behalf of Japan and the Japanese people, I offer with profound respect my eternal condolences to the souls of all American people that were lost during the Second World War," Mr Abe said.

But as he did at a news conference yesterday with US president Barack Obama, Mr Abe stopped short of offering an apology for Japanese conduct during the war, including sexual enslavement of tens of thousands of Asian women by Japan's imperial army.

South Korea and a number of US politicians have sought such an apology, but Mr Abe did not offer one, even while acknowledging that Japan's "actions brought suffering to the peoples in Asian countries".

He described visiting the Second World War memorial on the National Mall, and reflecting upon the 400,000 American war dead "with deep repentance in my heart".

"What is done cannot be undone," Mr Abe said.

But he hailed the alliance that rose from the ashes of that terrible conflict 70 years ago as one that will "enhance the peace and security of the Asia-Pacific region".

He also sought support for a 12-nation trans-Pacific trade pact that has divided Congress, telling politicians it should be completed "for the sake of our children and our children's children".

Mr Abe said: "Enemies that had fought each other so fiercely have become friends bonded in spirit."

"What should we call this, if not a miracle of history?" he asked.

After an Oval Office meeting with Mr Abe yesterday, where the two leaders declared progress in bilateral trade talks that are critical for completing a wider TPP agreement among nations accounting for 40% of global GDP, Mr Obama conceded to reporters: "It's never fun passing a trade bill in this town."

Mr Abe told politicians that the Pacific trade deal is about spreading the shared values of rule of law, democracy and freedom.

"It is also about our security. Long-term, its strategic value is awesome. We should never forget that," Mr Abe said. "Let us bring the TPP to a successful conclusion through our joint leadership."

Since winning election in December 2012, Mr Abe has been a strong advocate of closer ties with the US. He has been granted the full pomp and ceremony at the White House and was feted last night with a state dinner.

But it is the invitation to address Congress that sets him apart from his predecessors. While past Japanese prime ministers - including Mr Abe's own grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, in 1957 - have addressed the House, it was the first time for a leader of the East Asian nation to speak to both chambers.

Press Association

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