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Abe to become first Japanese leader to visit Pearl Harbor

Japan's Shinzo Abe has said he will visit Pearl Harbor with US President Obama during a trip later this month. Abe will be the first serving prime minister to visit the US Naval base that was attacked by Japan in 1941.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday he will travel to the US state of Hawaii for a final summit with President Obama. During the trip, he will join Obama in remembering the victims of Japan's Pearl Harbor attack 75 years ago.

The trip is set to take place on December 26 and 27.

Abe will become the first Japanese leader to visit the site of the surprise Japanese attack on the US Naval base that launched the United States into World War II.

USA Japan Geschichte Pearl Harbor USS ARIZONA (Reuters/The U.S. National Archives)

The attack on Pearl Harbor almost 75 years ago killed over 2,400 people and propelled the US into WWII

Abe's visit follows a similar gesture made by Obama earlier this year when he attended a memorial service to atomic bomb victims in Hiroshima. In May, Obama became the first sitting US president to visit the Japanese city that the US dropped an atomic bomb on in 1945.

His trip sparked rumors that Abe could visit Pearl Harbor in response, but the government previously denied that such a trip was under consideration.

Japan Hiroschima Obama Kranzniederlegung Gedenkstätte (Getty Images/AFP/J. Watson)

Obama visited Hiroshima in May this year on the 71st anniversary of the world's first nuclear attack

On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes bombed the naval base, killing over 2,400 US troops and civilians. The two-hour bombardment sank or damaged around 20 ships and destroyed 164 planes.

The attack quickly changed American public opinion on the war, which was previously against entering the conflict. Shortly afterwards, then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared war on Japan and then on Germany.

Observers say the reciprocal visits are meant to showcase the close cooperation between the two former enemies.

rs/kms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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