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Obama, Abe set for symbolic Pearl Harbor visit

The US and Japanese leaders are due to visit the site of the 1941 attack that brought America into World War II. Abe is not expected to apologize for the deadly incident, which decimated the US Pacific fleet.

USA Abe gedenkt als erster japanischer Regierungschef der Opfer von Pearl Harbor (picture alliance/dpa/MAXPPP)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pays respects after laying a wreath at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii ahead of meetings with US President Barack Obama

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Hawaii ahead of Tuesday's visit, where he'll be joined by outgoing US President Barack Obama, who is vacationing on the island with his family.

Abe will become the first Japanese leader to visit the USS Arizona Memorial that honors sailors and marines killed in the surprise attack.

On December 7, 1941 a Japanese air armada descended on the Hawaiian naval base without warning, killing 2,403 Americans and leaving the US Pacific Fleet in tatters.

Attack changed history

The assault caused deep shock and led to a sea change in US public opinion, giving then-US President Franklin D. Roosevelt the backing to take America into World War II, which had already plunged Europe into chaos.

During Tuesday's visit, Abe won't apologize for the surprise attacks 75 years ago, but he will pay respects to the war dead, in a symbolic move to strengthen relations with Washington.

"The horror of war should never be repeated. I would like to express this vow for the future and the value of reconciliation between Japan and the United States together with US President Obama," he told reporters before leaving Japan.

The two countries have transformed relations in the decades since the conflict, and Tuesday's visit comes six months after Obama because the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima, the city on which the US dropped an atomic bomb in 1945.

USA Pearl Harbor Arizona Memorial Museum (picture-alliance/Newscom)

The USS Arizona Memorial was built in 1965 in memory of those killed in the Pearl Harbor attack

Both leaders to pay tribute to dead

The two leaders will hold a bilateral meeting before touring the memorial and making remarks to an audience of US, local and military officials that will also likely include veterans and survivors of the attack, officials said.

On Monday, Abe visited the Ehime Maru Memorial near downtown Honolulu to mark another incident where a US Navy submarine collided with a Japanese fishing vessel in 2001, leaving nine people dead. He also stopped at several other memorials.

Japanese leaders have visited Pearl Harbor before, but Abe is the first to pay his respects at the USS Arizona memorial.

The white concrete block structure straddles the rusting remains of the USS Arizona battleship, which exploded and sank to the bottom of Pearl Harbor. The USS Arizona was one of 16 ships lost or damaged in the assault.

Around two million tourists, pilgrims and veterans now visit the site each year.

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mm/kl (AFP, AP, dpa)

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