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Japan PM's Pearl Harbour visit won't be for apology: spokesman

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Pearl Harbor this month, the first by a Japanese leader, will not be to apologise for the Japanese attack 75 years ago that drew the United States into World War Two, Mr Abe's top aide said on Tuesday.

[TOKYO] Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Pearl Harbour this month, the first by a Japanese leader, will not be to apologise for the Japanese attack 75 years ago that drew the United States into World War Two, Mr Abe's top aide said on Tuesday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the purpose of Mr Abe's Dec 26-27 visit was to console the souls of those who died in the war.

While the lack of an apology could disappoint some US war veterans, Mr Abe hopes the visit will showcase the tight alliance between the former foes. Experts say it is a message Mr Abe wants to send both to regional rival China and to US President-elect Donald Trump, who has criticised Tokyo as a free-rider on defence.

"This visit is for the sake of consoling the souls of those who died in the war, not for the sake of an apology," Mr Suga told a news conference the day after Mr Abe announced the visit.

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"I think that the prime minister's visit will be an opportunity to send the message that the calamity of war must not be repeated and... express the value of reconciliation between Japan and the United States," he said.

The visit to Hawaii with US President Barack Obama could also boost Mr Abe's popularity rating - already robust at around 60 per cent - and raise the likelihood that he will call a snap election for parliament's lower house.

It will come seven months after Mr Obama became the first serving US president to visit the Japanese city of Hiroshima, where the United States dropped an atomic bomb in the closing days of the war in 1945.

"The planning for a Pearl Harbour visit has been in the works ever since Obama visited Hiroshima. It's mostly a reciprocal gesture and symbolic of the US and Japan burying the hatchet," said Columbia University emeritus professor Gerry Curtis.

"It sends a message to China about the strength of the US-Japan relationship (and is) probably also intended to send the same message to Trump," he said.

A boost in popularity ratings would give Mr Abe a freer hand to call a snap election in January before opposition parties are ready. No election need be held until 2018 but speculation persists that Mr Abe wants to call a vote sooner to minimise losses for his ruling bloc, which holds a two-thirds majority in the chamber.

REUTERS

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