Shinzo Abe became the first Japanese prime minister to address the US Congress on Wednesday.
Abe’s speech touched on World War II, the proposed Trans-Pacific trade deal, and military and economic collaboration between the US and Japan.
Expressing “deep repentance” over World War II, he offered “eternal condolences” for Americans who died in the war.
On Monday, Abe visited the Lincoln memorial at Arlington National Cemetery with US President Barack Obama.
On Tuesday, in a joint press conference, Obama thanked Abe for his visit, noting that “the past can be overcome” and that after 70 years, the US and Japan were now “true partners and friends.”
Despite critics’ expectations, Abe did not further apologise for Japan’s wartime conduct regarding “comfort women,” as Asian women forced into prostitution to serve the Japanese Imperial Army were called.
In Tuesday’s press conference, Abe said comfort women” had “experienced immeasurable pain and suffering” but that the Abe cabinet has “no intention to revise” the Kono statement of 1993 which, after decades of denial, finally acknowledged that women were coerced to work in military-run brothels.
In the same press conference, Obama said he and Abe had, for the first time in nearly 20 years, “updated the guidelines for our defense cooperation,” foreseeing forces that will be more flexible and better prepared, as “Japan will take on greater roles and responsibilities in the Asia Pacific and around the world.”
Abe, having proposed reforms at home to revise Japan’s pacifist post-war constitution, said in his speech to Congress, “We now hold high a new banner that is a ‘proactive contribution’ to peace based on the principle of international cooperation.”
Abe also told Congress about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed pact with the participation of 12 countries, the US and Japan being the largest economies involved.
The pact, Abe said, would result in a market that is “fair, dynamic, sustainable, and is also free from the arbitrary intentions of any nation.”
Obama, in the press conference on Tuesday, addressed concerns and criticisms against the TPP but firmly stated his support for the agreement.
“This will end up being the most progressive bill in history. It will have the kinds of labor and environmental and human rights protections that have been absent in previous agreements. It’s going to be enforceable. It’s going to open markets that currently are not fully open to US businesses. It’s going to be good for the US economy,” Obama said.