White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday that it’s natural for World War II veterans to feel “personally embittered” by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s impending visit to Pearl Harbor, but they should get over it.
Abe announced Monday that he would become the first Japanese leader to visit the Hawaiian naval station since it was bombed by Imperial Japan on Dec. 7, 1941, leading to the deaths of more than 2,400 Americans.
The visit is in response to President Barack Obama’s visit to Hiroshima, Japan, earlier this year, which was the site of the first atomic bomb drop. The bomb killed 70,000-80,000 people and injured another 70,000.
But during the daily White House press briefing Monday, Earnest was asked about Abe’s decision to visit Pearl Harbor — which will come shortly after the 75th anniversary of the attack — and how veterans should feel about it, namely because Japan has refused to apologize for the attack.
“If I were a World War II veteran who was drafted by the United States military to go and fight for our country overseas in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack, I might feel quite embittered,” Earnest said. “And I think it would be a perfectly natural and understandable human reaction to not be particularly satisfied with the words of the Japanese Prime Minister.”
But, Earnest said those people who feel “personal bitterness” should set aside their feelings for the greater good of the U.S.
“And so, yes, there may be some who feel personally embittered,” he added. “But I’m confident that many will set aside their own personal bitterness, not because they’re personally satisfied by the words of the Prime Minister, but because they recognize how important this moment is for the United States.”
For what it’s worth, Abe said that he would “mourn the souls of the victims” of Japan’s surprise attack with Obama during his visit later this month.