Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will honor war dead but won't apologize when he becomes the first Japanese leader to visit Pearl Harbor this month, a top government spokesman said on Tuesday.The move follows Barack Obama's historic May trip to Hiroshima, the first by a sitting US president, where he spoke of victims' suffering but offered no apology for dropping the world's first nuclear bomb.
PM Abe will pay his respects to those who died in Japan's surprise 1941 attack at the US naval base in Hawaii, which triggered World War II in the Pacific, and highlight a decades-old security alliance between the former enemies.
The purpose of this visit is to commemorate war dead, not to apologize, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular press briefing in Tokyo.
The visit will serve as an opportunity to demonstrate to future generations our resolve not to repeat the horror and suffering of war as well as an opportunity to showcase the reconciliation between Japan and the United States, he added.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the deadly Dec 7, 1941 assault on the US naval base.
On the day of the bombing 75 years ago, Japanese planes swept low over the US naval base, killing more than 2,400 American troops and civilians, a date which then-president Franklin Roosevelt declared would live in infamy.
The two-hour bombardment of the US Pacific Fleet at anchor sank or damaged some 20 ships and destroyed 164 planes.
The war ended in August 1945 after the US dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan and, although the countries have forged strong ties in the seven decades since, how the war began and concluded has cast a long shadow.
Abe -a nationalist who has been criticized for playing down his country's wartime record- will be in Hawaii on Dec 26 and 27 for talks with Mr. Obama, who will join him at Pearl Harbor.
In Hiroshima, Obama and Abe went to an atomic bomb memorial - a visit that sparked speculation that Abe might go to Pearl Harbour in return.
The US leader lay a floral wreath and reiterated his call for the abolition of nuclear weapons but did not apologize for the attack and a subsequent bombing of Nagasaki that ended the war.
Shinzo Abe's visit to Pearl Harbour also comes as Japan prepares to build a new relationship with Donald Trump, who will take over from Obama next month.
Trump sent shockwaves through Japan earlier this year when he appeared to call into question the two countries' security alliance, prompting PM Abe to become the first world leader to meet him after the election to confirm the relationship.