Shinzo Abe and Barack Obama will visit Pearl Harbor together this month as the Japanese prime minister visits Hawaii for talks with the US president.
Abe, who will be in Hawaii on 26 and 27 December, will become the first Japanese leader to visit the site of the surprise Japanese attack on 7 December 1941 that began the second world war in the Pacific.
The Hawaii visit comes after Obama’s May trip to Hiroshima, the Japanese city where a US plane dropped the world’s first atom bomb towards the end of the conflict. Nagasaki was bombed several days later.
Obama gave a speech that, although it offered no apology, was generally well received in Japan as it focused on the suffering of the atomic bomb victims.
On 6 August 1945, Hiroshima was attacked and 140,000 people died in the immediate blast or later from radiation exposure. Days later another bomb exploded above Nagasaki, killing more than 70,000 people.
On Monday Abe hailed Obama’s speech at a cenotaph in Hiroshima as a handful of surviving victims looked on. Obama’s “message towards a nuclear-free world during his visit to Hiroshima remains etched into Japanese hearts”, Abe said.
“I’d like to make it [meeting Obama] an opportunity to send a message to the world that we will further strengthen and maintain our alliance towards the future,” he said. “And at the same time, I want to make it an opportunity to signal the value of Japan-US reconciliation.”
Obama’s trip had sparked speculation that Abe could visit Pearl Harbor in response, though the government previously denied that was under consideration.
Abe’s wife, Akie, visited Pearl Harbor in August and said on Facebook that she had offered flowers and prayers at the USS Arizona memorial.
On the day of the bombing 75 years ago, Japanese planes swept low over the US naval base, killing more than 2,400 American troops and civilians.
The two-hour bombardment of the US Pacific Fleet at anchor sank or damaged about 20 ships and destroyed 164 planes. The then president, Franklin Roosevelt, declared that the date would “live in infamy”.