PM Abe on WWII

Abe offers ‘eternal condolences’ for Americans killed in WWII

WASHINGTON — Shinzo Abe became the first Japanese prime minister to address a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress on Wednesday, offering heartfelt testimony on the need for deeper ties while facing controversy over his views of World War II.

Speaking in English, Abe stressed the tight bonds between two nations that were forged from the embers of brutal battles like Pearl Harbor and Iwo Jima, and offered a solemn personal apology for Japan’s actions.

“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 World War II,” he said to rousing applause from U.S. lawmakers.

Shortly before arriving on Capitol Hill, Abe symbolically laid a flower wreath at a monument to that conflict, which claimed the lives of an estimated 400,000 Americans.

“The battles engraved at the memorial crossed my mind, and I reflected upon the lost dreams and lost futures of those young Americans. History is harsh. What is done cannot be undone. With deep repentance in my heart, I stood there in silent prayers for some time,” Abe said.

But it was Japan’s actions in Asia during that war that threatened to overshadow his historic address.

In Congress, Abe was faced with the presence of 87-year-old Lee Yong-Soo, one of the estimated 200,000 Asian women who were forced into sexual slavery by occupying Japanese troops.

She was invited by Democrat lawmaker Mike Honda who is one of many that accuse Abe of downplaying any official role by the country or its military.

Abe expressed his “deep remorse” over Japan’s actions toward neighboring Asian nations, but stopped short of a full apology demanded by many.

“Postwar, we started out on our path bearing in mind feelings of deep remorse over the war,” he told the joint meeting. “Our actions brought suffering to the peoples in Asian countries. We must not avert our eyes from that.”

That angered some in Congress, including Honda, who said it was “shocking and shameful” that Abe “continues to evade his government’s responsibility for the systematic atrocity that was perpetrated the Japanese Imperial Army.”

Democrat Congresswoman Judy Chu said she was “incredibly disappointed” that Abe did not directly address the issue of comfort women.

“Without responsibility and remorse, it is impossible to move forward.”

Republicans were less scathing, with Senator John McCain lauding a “historic recognition of two peoples reconciled with their shared history.”

These same lawmakers must grant President Barack Obama authority to ink a vast trans-Pacific trade deal that includes Japan, the United States and 10 other countries.

Abe threw his weight behind that pact, which faces opposition on the left of the political spectrum.

“We cannot overlook sweat shops or burdens on the environment,” Abe said, framing the deal as more than just an economic tool.

It “goes far beyond just economic benefits. It is also about our security. Long-term, its strategic value is awesome. We should never forget that.”

“We can spread our shared values around the world and have them take root: the rule of law, democracy, and freedom.”

Abe also touched on the future of the U.S.-Japan military alliance.

“We now hold high a new banner that is a ‘proactive contribution to peace based on the principle of international cooperation,’” Abe said a day after he and President Barack Obama cemented new guidelines for Japan’s military to support U.S. forces beyond its waters. He has proposed reforms to Japan’s pacifist post-war constitution to make this possible.

Abe sent a stern message to China, which is locked in maritime disputes with Tokyo and other Asian neighbors.

Though Abe did not mention China by name, he spoke of the “state of Asian waters,” saying countries must not “use force or coercion to drive their claims.”

Abe’s speech was a moment symbolic of the reconciliation between former World War Two enemies who are now the closest of allies. As he spoke, he was interrupted frequently by applause and standing ovations.

Abe gave his address from the spot where President Franklin Roosevelt asked for a declaration of war against Imperial Japan after the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The speech also coincided with Japan’s national holiday marking the birthday of its wartime emperor, Hirohito.

© 2015 AFP/Thomson Reuters


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I began writing Elle's Adventure in China (EACh) in June 2014 as a fun summer project, but as obstacles kept interfering with my plans, I forked and forked more options. I took writing this novel much more seriously in mid-July, and want to have it officially published someday in my lifetime. As many artists put their hearts into their projects, so do I. I did not start out liking to read, but a professor suggested a book for me for homework a few years ago, and it was an amazing book. Since then, I read for pleasure, and I hope my novel, Elle's Adventure in China, does the same for as many of you as possible. The same thing goes to writing. I did not like to write until I took a course where the professor and papers made me love to write. I hope every one of you find what makes you happy and dedicated to work. In May 2015, I started my other blog, Read and Write Here (R&WH), as a place to post other things that aren't China- and Chinese culture-related and not EACh. I share some of my memories and experiences from student teaching, irregular participation in Daily Prompts, etc. I'd like to have regular people and bloggers to write book reviews and post it on R&WH someday. Keep reading and writing!

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