For Mr Abe, it’s an act of symbolic reciprocity, coming six months after Obama became the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima in Japan, where the US dropped an atomic bomb in hopes of ending the war it entered after Pearl Harbor.
“This visit, and the president’s visit to Hiroshima earlier this year, would not have been possible eight years ago,” said Daniel Kritenbrink, Obama’s top Asia adviser in the White House.
“That we are here today is the result of years of efforts at all levels of our government and societies, which has allowed us to jointly and directly deal with even the most sensitive aspects of our shared history.”
More than 2,300 Americans died on December 7, 1941, when more than 300 Japanese fighter planes and bombers attacked. More than 1,000 others were wounded.
In the ensuing years, the US incarcerated roughly 120,000 Japanese-Americans in internment camps before dropping atomic bombs in 1945 that killed some 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 70,000 in Nagasaki.