WASHINGTON: Shinzo Abe will become the first Japanese prime minister to address a joint session of the US Congress, expected Wednesday to bring a message of deepening economic and security ties in the face of China’s growing clout.
Few Japanese politicians have ever addressed Congress and none have done so in a coveted joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives.
Abe will do so in the crowning event of a week-long US tour as the two former enemies prepare to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
The 60-year-old Abe’s visit comes as Washington presses Japan to mend frayed ties with fellow US ally South Korea and with China. During the war Japan’s Asian neighbors suffered from Japanese militarism.
Beijing and Seoul will be closely watching what Abe says. South Korea has urged Abe to use the opportunity to express “sincere repentance” for wartime atrocities, while China’s foreign ministry has merely noted the reports of the US invitation.
Abe’s government has publicly endorsed a 1995 apology for wartime wrongs.
But South Korea is hoping he addresses Japan’s controversial emphasis on patriotism in schools, and ministers’ visits to a shrine that honors the war dead, including convicted war criminals.
Seoul believes Tokyo has yet to fully atone for the excesses of its colonial past and the forced recruitment of South Korean women to wartime military brothels.