WASHINGTON – The United States on Wednesday celebrated the 70th anniversary of the formal end of World War II in the Pacific theater with President Barack Obama calling the wartime adversary Japan a “steadfast” ally and the current alliance with Tokyo a model of reconciliation, with the praise coming on the eve of both nations’ Pacific rival China’s pomp and parade of military might.
“The end of the war marked the beginning of a new era in America’s relationship with Japan,” Obama said in a statement. “Seventy years ago this partnership was unimaginable.”
The statement came as China was poised to hold Thursday a massive military parade commemorating the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II. The parade is expected to feature hundreds of tanks and other armored vehicles rumbling through Tiananmen Square as fighter jets fly in formation overhead, amid concerns by China’s neighbors and the United States over the country’s rapid military expansion and aggressive territorial claims.
Japan formally surrendered to the Allied forces on Sept. 2, 1945, with a signing ceremony on the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. The late Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s surrender on Aug. 15 that year.
Obama said the U.S.-Japan relationship stands as “a model of the power of reconciliation” and he and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe confirmed it during Abe’s visit to Washington in April.
“Today it is a fitting reflection of our shared interests, capabilities, and values, and I am confident that it will continue to deepen in the decades to come,” Obama said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a separate statement, “Our enduring partnership testifies to the power of reconciliation and draws strength from a shared commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.”
Some 600 people, including some 50 veterans, took part in a ceremony to mark the anniversary at the World War II Memorial in downtown Washington.
Bob Dole, a WWII veteran and the Republican nominee in the 1996 presidential election, was among the participants who offered wreaths at the venue.
Andrew Abugelis, 92, was sent to battlefields such as Marcus Island in the Pacific, now Japan’s easternmost Minamitorishima Island.
Abugelis said he came to the event to pay tribute to his comrades on the carrier Yorktown. “I have no animosity against them at all,” he said of the Japanese people. “We just did our job.”