Honolulu residents and visitors might want to avoid roads and highways leading to Pearl Harbor on Tuesday, particularly in the morning.
That’s the day when the prime minister of Japan is scheduled to meet with the president of the United States to discuss security concerns and make an historic visit to Pearl Harbor.
The Honolulu Police Department said there will be traffic modifications around the Pearl Harbor area that morning, but was unable to provide further information.
President Barack Obama and his family are already on Oahu for their annual holiday vacation, while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives sometime Monday.
“The meeting will be an opportunity for the two leaders to review our joint efforts over the past four years to strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance, including our close cooperation on a number of security, economic, and global challenges,” the White House said in statement Thursday.
Obama will also accompany Abe to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor to honor those killed in the 1941 attack by Japan, which occurred 75 years ago this month and led to the U.S. entry into World War II.
“The two leaders’ visit will showcase the power of reconciliation that has turned former adversaries into the closest of allies, united by common interests and shared values,” the White House said.
Abe is not expected to issue a formal apology for the surprise attack, just as Obama issued no formal apology when he visited Hiroshima — the site of the first atomic bomb attack in 1945 — earlier this year.
It’s not clear yet who all will be attending Tuesday’s events. The same goes for an event Monday night at the Hawaii Convention Center, where the Japanese Consulate-General in Honolulu is expected to host the prime minister.
The Abe visit is being billed as historic, although he is apparently not the first Japanese leader to visit Pearl Harbor.
Japanese Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida stopped in Hawaii in 1951 on his way home to Tokyo from San Francisco, where he had signed a treaty to normalize relations between his country and the U.S.
“During his brief time on the island of Oahu, he paid a formal visit to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, a mountaintop shrine dedicated to American war dead, and, it now appears, made a less public stop at Pearl Harbor,” The New York Times reported earlier this month.
The Arizona Memorial, where 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on the USS Arizona during the attack are interred in the sunken battleship, was not dedicated until 1962.
In 1994, Emperor Akihito of Japan laid a wreath for war dead at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as Punchbowl.
There were plans for a stop at the Arizona, “but objections from Japan’s nationalist right wing, which has long argued that the attack was a justifiable response to an American war embargo, made the government shy away from that hugely symbolic site,” the Times reported at the time.
The National Park Service advises that services will be limited at the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites on Tuesday.
The Arizona Memorial and Pearl Harbor Visitor Center will be closed, as will the nearby USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park. But the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor on Ford Island and the Battleship Missouri Memorial berthed next to the Arizona will be open, the latter on a limited afternoon schedule.
Hawaii’s top leaders are welcoming Abe’s visit, including Gov. David Ige, who previously met with the prime minister.
An administration spokesperson said the governor has received several interview requests from Japanese media regarding the significance of the visit.
And Hawaii Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa tweeted this:
— Colleen Hanabusa (@RepHanabusa) December 23, 2016
But the visit has been denounced by some.
United Press International reported Wednesday, “North Korea condemned Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for his plans to attend a ceremony next week in remembrance of the victims of the Pearl Harbor attack, calling the act an ‘ugly peace charade.'”
A Reuters story Thursday, meanwhile, quoted one source who said Abe could have made a more meaningful visit elsewhere.
“If Abe is looking for a symbolic gesture, he must go to Nanjing and to Korea to see ‘comfort women,'” said Andrew Horvat, a visiting professor at Josai International University.
Nanjing is where Japanese troops in 1937 massacred hundreds of civilians and forced women to work in wartime military brothels.