Donald Trump has targeted the United States’ relationship with Japan again, this time slamming President Barack Obama on Saturday for not raising the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor during the leader’s historic visit to Hiroshima the previous day.
“Does President Obama ever discuss the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor while he’s in Japan? Thousands of American lives lost. #MDW,” Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, tweeted as the Memorial Day weekend opened in the U.S.
Obama, who became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the A-bombed city, used the trip to discuss the dangers of nuclear weapons in a speech at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
“Why do we come to this place? To Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not-so-distant past. We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women and children; thousands of Koreans; a dozen Americans held prisoner.”
While the U.S. leader did not apologize for the nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, some critics have labeled his visits to Japan and Vietnam as part of an “apology tour.”
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton blasted Obama’s trip as a “shameful apology tour” in an editorial in the New York Post on Thursday.
As of Sunday evening, Trump’s Pearl Harbor tweet had garnered nearly 7,400 retweets and more than 17,800 likes.
The Japanese government and various leaders have made numerous public statements expressing remorse for its wartime aggression, though controversy remains over the sincerity and clarity of many of them.
The White House did not immediately respond to Trump’s remarks.
Invoking the Dec. 7, 1941, surprise attack by Japanese warplanes that killed more than 2,400 Americans and dragged the U.S. into World War II was the latest of many verbal salvos targeting Japan.
Trump has said allies like Japan should pay more toward the cost of defense and warned that he might, if elected, withdraw U.S. troops and close bases here if they don’t.
Perhaps more alarmingly, Trump has also said he is open to Japan developing its own nuclear arsenal — a move analysts say would profoundly alter the strategic calculus in the Asia-Pacific region.
On the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit in Ise, Mie Prefecture, on Thursday, Obama ripped into the presumptive Republican nominee, saying world leaders have been shaken by his views on global affairs.
“They are rattled by it — and for good reason,” Obama said. “Because a lot of the proposals he has made display either ignorance of world affairs, or a cavalier attitude, or an interest in getting tweets and headlines.”
As for any reciprocal visit to Pearl Harbor by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Japanese leader appeared to throw cold water on speculation he would make such a trek.
“At this moment I don’t have any specific plan to visit Hawaii,” Abe told a joint news conference with Obama on Wednesday, though he did not implicitly rule out the idea.
In the past, there had been speculation that any presidential visit to Hiroshima would be packaged with a reciprocal visit to Pearl Harbor by a Japanese prime minister.
Publicly, White House adviser Ben Rhodes tried to decouple the two visits, though media reports said that the administration had privately made it clear that a visit by Abe on the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack would be welcome.
The Washington Post reported on Thursday, a day ahead of Obama’s Hiroshima visit, that a senior White House official said he would be surprised if Abe did not make such a trip.