Japan’s leader has said he will visit Pearl Harbor with US president Barack Obama at the end of this month.
No serving Japanese prime minister has ever visited the US naval base in Hawaii that was attacked by Japan in 1941, propelling the United States into the Second World War.
Prime minister Shinzo Abe said he will visit Hawaii in late December and hold a final summit meeting there with Mr Obama before the American leader leaves office.
Earlier this year, Mr Obama became the first sitting US president to visit the memorial to victims of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima at the end of the war.
The unexpected announcement came two days before the 75th anniversary of the attack. Mr Abe, in a brief statement, said he would visit Hawaii on 26 and 27 December to pray for the war dead at Pearl Harbor.
“We must never repeat the tragedy of the war,” he 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 US.”
The White House confirmed a meeting on 27 December, saying “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”.
More than 2,300 US servicemen died in the aerial attack, which will be marked tomorrow by a remembrance ceremony on a pier overlooking the harbour. A moment of silence will be observed at 7:55am, when the Japanese planes hit their first target. In the seven decades since the end of the war, the United States and Japan have become staunch allies as Japan rebuilt itself into an economic power. It is one of the more remarkable turnarounds of former enemies in world history.
“Our talks in Hawaii will be a chance to show the rest of the world our ever stronger alliance in the future,” Mr Abe said.
The announcement of the summit comes as Japan worries about the direction of US foreign policy under Mr Obama’s successor, Donald Trump.
The president-elect said during the campaign that Japan and other allies should contribute more to the cost of stationing US troops in their countries
Mr Abe met Mr Trump in New York last month. He said Mr Trump is a leader he can have great confidence in.