Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is planning to visit the site of a war memorial in Darwin, a northern Australian city bombed by the Japanese military during World War II, later this week, Japanese diplomatic sources said Monday.
Abe is expected to visit the Darwin Cenotaph with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in a symbolic show of the postwar reconciliation that has allowed the two countries to become strategic partners, the sources said.
The move follows Abe’s December 2016 visit to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the site of the 1941 attack by Japan that brought the United States into the war, and former U.S. President Barack Obama’s trip in May of that year to Hiroshima, which was devastated by the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing. Those visits showcased postwar Japan-U.S. reconciliation.
The Japanese government is also hoping to highlight with Australia the importance of future-oriented relations, the sources said.
The bombing of Darwin on Feb. 19, 1942, is said to have been the first attack by a foreign power on mainland Australia during the war. More than 240 people were killed in the air raid on the former stronghold of the Allied forces. Darwin later suffered dozens more Japanese air attacks.
The prime minister will meet with Morrison for the first time since the Australian leader took office in August.
Abe is expected to cement ties with Australia by promoting Tokyo’s “free and open Indo-Pacific” policy, designed to promote stability and prosperity in areas between Asia and Africa rooted in rule-based order and freedom of navigation, as well as confirm their cooperation in maritime security.
The prime minister’s visit to Australia is scheduled between Association of Southeast Asian Nations-related meetings in Singapore and a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Papua New Guinea.
When Abe traveled to Papua New Guinea in July 2014, he offered flowers at a memorial for those who fell in the war including Japanese soldiers. At that time, he called for cooperation in collecting the remains of Japanese troops who died during the war.