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Japanese PM at Pearl Harbor Offers 'Everlasting Condolences to the Souls' of the Fallen

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe embraces a World War II Pearl Harbor survivor after he and President Obama spoke on Kilo Pier, overlooking the USS Arizona Memorial, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, on Dec. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

In a visit to Pearl Harbor today with President Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cast flowers “on behalf of Japanese people upon the waters where those sailors and Marines sleep.”

Abe and Obama took a boat to the USS Arizona memorial, paying respects at wreaths placed in the shrine room before the wall bearing the names of the fallen. The leaders then dropped purple flowers into the water before giving remarks on a pier overlooking the memorial.

In May, Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the memorial at Hiroshima. He didn’t apologize for the U.S. dropping the bomb, and Abe was not expected to apologize for the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“President Obama, the people of the United States of America, and the people around the world, as the prime minister of Japan, I offer my sincere and everlasting condolences to the souls of those who lost their lives here. As well as to the spirits of all the brave men and women whose lives were taken by a war that commenced in this very place, and also to the souls of the countless innocent people who became innocent victims of the war,” Abe said.

“We must never repeat the horrors of war again. This is the solemn vow, we the people of Japan have taken. Since the war, we have created a free and democratic country that values the rule of law and has resolute and upheld our vow never again to wage war.”

On Monday, Abe visited a memorial marker for Lt. Fusata Iita, commander of the 3rd Aircraft Group of the Japanese Imperial Navy, at the Marine Corps base in Kaneohe Bay.

“It was not Japanese who erected a marker at the site that Iita’s fighter plane crashed. It was U.S. servicemen who had been on the receiving end of these attacks, applauding the bravery of the dead pilot, they erected stone marker,” the prime minister noted. “…Trying to understand, even an enemy that they hated, therein lies the spirit of tolerance embraced by the American people.”

Abe added that “the goodwill and assistance you extended to us Japanese, the enemy you had fought so fiercely, together with a tremendous spirit of tolerance were etched deeply into the hearts and minds of our grandfathers and mothers.”

The Japan-United States relationship, he said, is “an alliance of hope that will lead us to the future.”

“What has bonded us together is the power of reconciliation made possible through the spirit of tolerance,” Abe continued. “What I want to appeal to the people of the world here at Pearl Harbor, together with President Obama, is this power of reconciliation. Even today, the horrors of war have not been eradicated from the surface of the world. There is no end to the spiral where hatred creates hatred. The world needs the spirit of tolerance and the power of reconciliation now, and especially now.”

Obama said the alliance “has helped underwrite an international order that has prevented another world war, and that has lifted more than a billion people out of extreme poverty.”

“The presence of Prime Minister Abe here today reminds us of what is possible between nations and between peoples. Wars can end. The most bitter of adversaries can become the strongest of allies. The fruits of peace always outweigh the plunder of war. This is the enduring truth of this hallowed harbor,” the president said.

“It is here that we remember that even when hatred burns hottest, even when the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward. We must resist the urge to demonize those who are different. The sacrifice made here in the anguish of war reminds us to seek the divine spark that is common to all humanity.”