President Obama and the prime minister of Japan are attending a wreath-laying ceremony at the Pearl Harbor memorial today.
Shinzo Abe will attend the ceremony with Obama at the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial.
Abe’s trip will be the first formal trip to the Pearl Harbor memorial by a Japanese leader.
The ceremony begins at 4:10 p.m. EST. Obama and Abe will then deliver remarks at 5:05 p.m. at Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam.
Abe’s attendance at a ceremony at Pearl Harbor is significant. The United States just observed the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor by the then-imperial forces of Japan.
The attack forced the United States into World War II, leading to the eventual defeat of Japan and its Axis partners, Nazi Germany and Italy.
Abe is not the first Japanese prime minister to visit the site of the attack, according to USA Today. But he will break important ground when he offers official condolences. Japan has yet to apologize for the attack formally.
Abe’s trip will be the first formal trip to the site by a Japanese leader.
It’s a sign Japan wants to strengthen its ties with the United States. Abe is arguably one of the most pro-American leaders in the world.
And he was the first foreign leader to visit President-Elect Donald Trump after the Nov. 8 election. Abe met with Trump in Trump Tower in New York City.
Abe favors an increase in military spending, something that was tightly regulated after Japan surrendered to the United States in 1945.
But with North Korea now testing missiles and with China’s aggressive moves and likely illegal construction of islands in international waters, some analysts say unleashing Japan’s strength as a check on the two communist nations could force better behavior.
Donald Trump has also made clear he wants Japan to pay more for its protection. Currently, the United States has 54,000 troops in Japan, according to TIME magazine.