Declaring “history is harsh”, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan offered solemn condolences Wednesday for the Americans who died in World War II 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 World War II,” said Abe, prompting lawmakers of both parties to stand and applaud.
At a news conference Tuesday with President Barack Obama, 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 U.S. lawmakers have sought such an apology, but Abe did not offer one.
Read Abe’s full speech, as prepared for delivery:
The Japanese PM expressed “feelings of deep remorse over the war” and acknowledged that “our actions brought suffering to the peoples in Asian countries, we must not avert our eyes from that.”
Abe described visiting the World War II 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” Abe said, but he hailed the alliance that rose from the ashes of the conflict 70 years ago, saying that “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?” Abe asked.
Abe also sought support for a 12-nation trans-Pacific trade pact that has divided Congress and provoked opposition in Japan, telling lawmakers it should be completed “for the sake of our children and our children’s children.”
Abe arrived in the midst of a bruising battle in Washington over legislation that would give Obama the authority to negotiate the deal, a cornerstone of his second-term agenda. In a reversal of politics-as-usual, it’s Obama’s own Democratic base that opposes him, and Republicans who support the deal.
After an Oval Office meeting with Abe on Tuesday, where the two leaders declared progress in bilateral trade talks that are critical for completing a wider TPP agreement among nations accounting for 40 percent of global GDP, Obama conceded to reporters: “It’s never fun passing a trade bill in this town.”
Abe told lawmakers 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,” Abe said. “Let us bring the TPP to a successful conclusion through our joint leadership.”
Since winning election in December 2012, Abe has been strong advocate of closer ties with the U.S. He’s been granted the full pomp and ceremony at the White House, and was feted Tuesday night with a state dinner.
But it’s the invitation to address Congress that sets him apart from his predecessors. While past Japanese prime ministers — including Abe’s own grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, in 1957 — have addressed the House, it was be the first time for a leader of the East Asian nation to speak to both chambers.
Report by The Associated Press
Zack Cooper on Prime Minister Abe’s US visit
To help us put Prime Minister Abe’s trip into perspective CCTV America was joined by Zack Cooper. He’s a Japan expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Zack Cooper on Prime Minister Abe\'s US visitTo help us put Prime Minister Abe's trip into perspective CCTV America was joined by Zack Cooper. He's a Japan expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
David Wu on Japanese PM’s speech
On Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s speech to congress, former U.S. Congressman David Wu believed by using the word “repentance”, Abe again stopped short of making a full apology over Japan’s acts during WWII and over the history of forced sex slaves. In his Op-Ed “Denial of History Affects the Future”, Wu urges President Obama to warn Japan that U.S.-Japan mutual defense treaty also requires Japan to stop all provocations, such as paying tributes to Yasukuni Shrine where convicted WWII criminals are housed.
David Wu on Abe's speechOn Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s speech to congress, former U.S. Congressman David Wu believed by using the word “repentance”, Abe again stopped short of making a full apology over Japan’s acts during WWII and over the history of forced sex slaves. In his Op-Ed , Wu urges President Obama to warn Japan that U.S.-Japan mutual defense treaty also requires Japan to stop all provocations, such as paying tributes to Yasukuni Shrine where convicted WWII criminals are housed.
Japanese PM apologizes for American lives lost during WWII
Abe’s speech stopped short of some terminology that many were hoping to hear. CCTV America’s Roee Ruttenberg filed this report from Washington.