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Declaring "history is harsh," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan offered solemn condolences Wednesday for the Americans who died in World War II as he became the first Japanese leader to address a joint meeting of Congress.
"My dear friends, on behalf of Japan and the Japanese people, I offer with profound respect my eternal condolences to the souls of all American people that were lost during World War II," said Abe, prompting lawmakers of both parties to stand and applaud.
But as he did at a news conference Tuesday with President Barack Obama, Abe stopped short of offering an apology for Japanese conduct during the war, including sexual enslavement of tens of thousands of Asian women by Japan's imperial army. South Korea and a number of U.S. lawmakers have sought such an apology, but Abe did not offer one.
Instead, he expressed "feelings of deep remorse over the war" and acknowledged that "our actions brought suffering to the peoples in Asian countries, we must not avert our eyes from that."
Abe described visiting the World War II memorial on the National Mall, and reflecting upon the 400,000 American war dead "with deep repentance in my heart."
"What is done cannot be undone," Abe said. But he hailed the alliance that rose from the ashes of that terrible conflict 70 years ago, saying that "Enemies that had fought each other so fiercely have become friends bonded in spirit."
"What should we call this, if not a miracle of history?" Abe asked.
Abe also sought support for a 12-nation trans-Pacific trade pact that has divided Congress and provoked opposition in Japan, telling lawmakers it should be completed "for the sake of our children and our children's children."
Abe arrived in the midst of a bruising battle in Washington over legislation that would give Obama the authority to negotiate the deal, a cornerstone of his second-term agenda. In a reversal of politics-as-usual, it's Obama's own Democratic base that opposes him, and Republicans who support the deal.
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