Two more sitting Japanese prime ministers visited Pearl Harbor in the 1950s, a local newspaper in Hawaii said Thursday, providing further evidence that Shinzo Abe will not be the first to visit the World War II site during his visit to Hawaii this week.
The bilingual Hawaii Hochi newspaper posted photos of front pages reporting two Japanese leaders made official visits, adding those to the 1951 visit of Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, which Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga recently confirmed.
On announcing Abe’s Hawaii trip, a Foreign Ministry official said he will be the first sitting Japanese leader to visit the key wartime site, a claim that has now been proven incorrect.
The images of the newspaper’s front pages show Ichiro Hatoyama visited the harbor on Oct. 29, 1956, with a headline reading: “Prime Minister Hatoyama visited Pearl Harbor yesterday.”
Hatoyama visited the naval headquarters there and was welcomed by a 19-gun salute and a band performing the anthems of both the United States and Japan, the newspaper said.
Nobusuke Kishi, Abe’s grandfather, visited the harbor on June 28, 1957, after meeting with President Dwight Eisenhower in the United States, the Hawaiian newspaper said.
“The prime minister visited Pearl Harbor and placed a wreath on the flag pole at Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery,” the English version of the newspaper said in its June 29 edition.
The newspaper said both Hatoyama and Kishi are believed to have visited the harbor in an official capacity as the U.S. military provided an honor guard ceremony at both events.
A Foreign Ministry official in Tokyo said Dec. 5 that Abe will be the first sitting Japanese prime minister to visit the harbor since the war after Abe announced his planned trip.
The official’s statement was carried by major news outlets, including Kyodo, but has since drawn attention after its veracity was called into question.