HONOLULU, Aug. 22 (UPI) — Akie Abe, the wife of Japanese Prime Minister Sinzo Abe, made a surprise visit to the Pearl Harbor memorial in Hawaii, offering flowers and a prayer.
Akie Abe made the two-hour visit Sunday while her husband attended the Summer Olympic closing ceremonies in Rio de Janeiro. Japan’s first lady is known for comments and actions that often run counter to the prime minister’s agenda, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday she was acting in a private capacity as a visitor to the memorial.
Suga added her visit has no bearing on whether the prime minister will visit the memorial, site of the USS Arizona battleship, which sunk when hundreds of Japanese fighter planes attacked the U.S. Navy base in 1941, prompting the United States’ entry into world War II. No Japanese prime minister has visited the site, but after President Barack Obama‘s visit to Hiroshima, where a U.S. atomic bomb was detonated in 1945, speculation has grown that Shinzo Abe will make a reciprocal visit.
Akie Abe was in Hawaii to attend an environmental conference, but while at the memorial shook the hand of a veteran of the Pearl Harbor attack.
“I offered my condolences to the victims and gave my prayer of gratitude for the peace that we have enjoyed and to establish the peace going forward,” Akie Abe told the online news service Gendai Ismedia.
In 2015 she visited the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, regarded as a monument to Japanese pre-war militarism. Political leaders who visit the shrine typically are the subject of intense criticism from China and South Korea.