Japan PM Abe visits USA amid controversial WWII remarks
Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe begins a historic, week-long visit to the United States on Sunday that will highlight strengthened trade and defense ties between the two countries, and feature the first address by a Japanese leader before a joint session of Congress. Now, if the right-leaning Abe can just keep it zipped about World War II.
The visit will include a summit meeting and state dinner at the White House, a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery and meetings with business and government leaders on both coasts. But it’s his congressional speech on Wednesday that is drawing the most attention. More than 100 world leaders have been invited to speak before a joint session of Congress since the end of World War II, but none from Japan, until now.
Abe’s views on the war have caused problems on both sides of the Pacific. Since taking office, he has made statements that seem to gloss over Japan’s wartime atrocities and cast doubt on his commitment to official apologies issued by previous prime ministers for war crimes. Abe’s stance has damaged relations with China, which suffered under Japanese occupation, and South Korea. Leaders in both countries have refused one-on-one summit meetings with Abe.
This month, 25 House members sent a letter to Japan’s ambassador urging Abe to “formally reaffirm and validate” previous apologies during his congressional address. Earlier, an organization of American World War II POWs urged Congress not to invite Abe without assurances that he would acknowledge Japanese wrongdoing. “Abe has been inconsistent in the way he talks about this history — sometimes acknowledging Japanese violence, and other times denying it and saying that discussing that past is unpatriotic,” said Jennifer Lind, an associate professor of government at Dartmouth College and a 2014 Sasakawa Peace Foundation Fellow in Tokyo. “Here, Abe has an opportunity in his speech to set the record straight — and I hope he makes the most of it.”