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Japan's Abe makes historic speech to US Congress

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe has addressed both houses of the US Congress, making him the first Japanese prime minister in history to do so. In his speech he offered "eternal condolences" for Japan's actions in World War II.

"History is harsh," declared Shinzo Abe on Wednesday, as he became

the first Japanese prime minister ever

to address a joint meeting of the US Congress. Speaking in English, Japan's leader emphasized the strong friendship forged between the two nations out of the embers of brutal battles like Pearl Harbor and Iwo Jima.

Abe offered a solemn apology for his nation's actions during the war, saying: "On behalf of Japan and the Japanese people, I offer with profound respect my eternal condolences to the souls of all the American people that were lost during World War II."

He did not, however, offer an apology for the sexual enslavement of Asian women by the Japanese Imperial Army during the conflict, despite calls from the US, South Korea,

and Germany to do so

. Later in his speech, he commented that "armed conflicts have always made women suffer the most," though without directly referencing the Second World War.

The prime minister also hailed how "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?"

His speech was met with smiles and applause from both Democrats and Republicans, who lined up to shake Abe's hand.

Obama, Abe push trade deal

Before his arrival on Capitol Hill, Abe paid a visit to Washington's World War II memorial, laying a wreath and reflecting on the 400,000 American war dead with, in his own words, "deep repentance."

Abe's visit falls amidst a brutal battle in Washington over a 12-nation Pacific trade deal, the TTP, that has provoked opposition both in Congress and in Japan. A key point of Obama's second-term agenda, unusually it is his own Democrats who oppose the deal, while Republicans support the pact.

Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Obama told reporters that "it's never fun to pass a trade bill in this town," while Abe urged support for the pact which he said had "awesome" long-term strategic value in addition to spreading values of democracy and freedom.

es/ (AP, AFP)

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