Tags: Japan | Abe | Trade Deal | Congress | WWII

Japan PM Abe Sells Trade Deal to Congress, Offers War Apology

Wednesday, 29 April 2015 12:12 PM

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged the U.S. government to work closely with his country to finish an ambitious Asia-Pacific trade deal that he said would promote democracy and freedom in the region.

In remarks prepared for a speech to a joint meeting of Congress, Abe offered “eternal condolences” for American lives lost in World War II and underscored what he called his country’s aim to make a “proactive contribution to peace.” Before the speech, he laid a wreath at the National World War II Memorial on Washington’s National Mall.

“Problems we face include terrorism, infectious diseases, natural disasters and climate change,” Abe said in his remarks. “The time has come for the U.S.-Japan alliance to face up and jointly tackle those challenges that are new.”

Abe offered no new apology to women forced into prostitution by the Japanese Imperial Army in the early 20th century, instead expressing “deep remorse” for unspecified suffering caused by Japanese wartime actions, for which the Japanese “must not avert our eyes.”

One former so-called “comfort woman,” Lee Yong Soo, planned to attend Abe’s speech as a guest of Representative Mike Honda, a California Democrat.

“There’s not many of us left and he can wait for us to die out but that won’t erase Japan’s crimes,” Lee, now 86, told reporters, sitting in a wheelchair in front of the Capitol. She said she was forced into sexual slavery at age 16.

Hundreds of Korean-American protesters from Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey flanked Lee, chanting “apologize, apologize, apologize.”

‘Brought Suffering’

Abe said in his prepared remarks to lawmakers that Japan’s wartime actions “brought suffering to the peoples in Asian countries” and that he “will uphold the views expressed by the previous prime ministers in this regard.”

More than two dozen women lawmakers, including Representative Kay Granger, a Texas Republican, and Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, wore red to the speech. The women wear red on Wednesday to express solidarity with kidnapped Nigerian girls, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in an e-mail.

Abe began his speech by sharing his experiences living in the U.S. as a student at the University of Southern California, recalling his appreciation of his host family’s Italian cooking. His jokes about American mispronunciations of his name won hearty applause and laughter.

‘In Spirit’

He received the longest standing ovations from lawmakers after he expressed condolences for American deaths in World War II and said that the former enemy nations are now “bonded in spirit.”

Abe is addressing U.S. lawmakers from the same podium where President Franklin Roosevelt asked for a declaration of war against Imperial Japan after the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The speech coincides with a Japanese national holiday marking the birthday of its wartime emperor, Hirohito.

Abe makes history as the first Japanese leader to address a joint meeting of Congress. He also follows in the footsteps of his grandfather Nobusuke Kishi, who in 1957 spoke to the U.S. House as the first Japanese leader to speak on Capitol Hill.

Trade Deal

The speech was Abe’s opportunity to pitch a somewhat reluctant audience -- particularly Democratic lawmakers -- on the 12-nation trade agreement, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Abe said the U.S. and Japan must take the lead in the deal, which would result in an economic market that is “fair, dynamic, sustainable, and is also free from the arbitrary intentions of any nation.”

“We must turn the area into a region of lasting peace and prosperity,” he urged Congress. “That is for the sake of our children and our children’s children.”

On Tuesday, Abe and President Barack Obama said at a White House news conference that the trade deal represents no threat to China, the world’s second-largest economy, which is excluded from the pact. U.S. and Japanese negotiators are trying to finish a preliminary trade agreement between the two countries that would serve as a foundation for the broader deal.

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged the U.S. government to work closely with his country to finish an ambitious Asia-Pacific trade deal that he said would promote democracy and freedom in the region.
Japan, Abe, Trade Deal, Congress, WWII
Wednesday, 29 April 2015 12:12 PM
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