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【#540(Special)】Trump’s Erroneously Reported “Pearl Harbor” Remark

Satoshi Sakakibara / 2018.09.05 (Wed)

September 3, 2018

     U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Pearl Harbor” remark at his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in June has been erroneously reported. I would like to introduce a very important Fuji TV report to resolve the misunderstanding.
     The remark was erroneously reported as follows:
     The Washington Post in its online edition on August 28 reported Trump had told Abe, “I remember Pearl Harbor,” and then launched into a blistering critique of Japan’s economic policies.

Spread Washington Post report
     As Abe-Trump relationship had been perceived as good, the news indicating the denial of such relationship came as a surprise.
     The Imperial Japanese Navy’s attack on Pearl Harbor has been dominantly viewed as a sneak attack in the United States. A U.S. president’s mention of Pearl Harbor is inevitably taken in the context of accusing Japan.
     Not only the Washington Post, but also Japanese media interpreted Trump as having harshly criticized Japan’s trade policy and demanded Abe’s concessions by mentioning Pearl Harbor.
     However, the interpretation was wrong.
     In its Prime News Evening on August 29, Fuji TV reported the following Trump remarks as provided by sources at the Prime Minister’s Office.
     “If the United States shoulders Japan’s defense spending without its trade deficit with Japan being resolved, it would be a double punch.”
     “I remember Pearl Harbor. Japan fought more in the past. Japan should fight with neighboring countries more and more.”
     It is clear that these remarks do not use Pearl Harbor as indicating any unfair act by Japan. 

An advice to a close friend
     In an interview with the Sankei Shimbun newspaper on September 1, Abe denied the Washington Post report as totally erroneous. Although the prime minister fell short of explaining Trump’s exact remarks, the Fuji TV report indicates the following as what Trump meant:
     “In the past, Japan was a military power that was strong enough to make a raid on Pearl Harbor. Japan now faces threats from North Korea and China. Why doesn’t Japan counter them in a resolute attitude as seen in the past. Japan should increase defense spending more.”
     The Trump remark apparently was a recommendation to an ally having good relationship with the United States and an advice to a friend.
     It is very regrettable that the remark was reported as bashing Japan.
     When Japan failed to intercept a North Korean ballistic missile flying over the Japanese archipelago last year, Trump reportedly said the failure by the “samurai country” was difficult to understand.
     As the president of the United States, Trump apparently hopes that Japan would enhance its defense capabilities not only for self-defense but also for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
     Sooner or later, President Trump will squarely raise this as a major challenge for Japan-U.S. cooperation. Instead of waiting for Trump to do so, Japan should make an effort to act as a county to take responsibility for regional peace in cooperation with the United States. It should make the first step in this direction this year as it updates its National Defense Program Guidelines in December.

Satoshi Sakakibara is Deputy Chief Editorial Writer for The Sankei Shimbun.