Alliances between countries shift and change, depending on the historical situation. And in relationships with major allies, you might think that it would be a good rule of thumb not to bring up times in the past when your countries were enemies. Despite that, though, President Donald Trump reportedly brought up Pearl Harbor in a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, calling to mind the worst chapter in Japanese-American relations. Bustle has reached out to the White House for comment on this story.
“I remember Pearl Harbor,” Trump said to Abe in a tense June White House meeting, according to a report from the Washington Post. This was a reference to the 1941 Japanese attack on the Hawaiian naval base of Pearl Harbor, which soon led to the U.S.' entry into World War II. Famously, according to History.com, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt referred to the day it happened, Dec. 7, 1941, as "a date which will live in infamy." Trump was born in 1946, so his memory of the event can refer only to his later studies of it.
Abe has worked hard to cultivate a relationship with Trump, as The Atlantic noted. However, according to the Washington Post's reporting, Abe did not leave that June meeting happy. After mentioning Pearl Harbor, Trump then reportedly sharply criticized Japanese trading and economic policies and pushed Abe to create a trade deal that he believed would be better for American beef and car manufacturers, the Post wrote.
According to the same Washington Post report, Trump also frequently references Japan's “samurai past” in his conversations with Abe.
The Pearl Harbor attack remains as one of the deadliest days in American history. According to History.com, 2,403 Americans lost their lives that day, including both soldiers and civilians. At the end of the war, the U.S. forced Japan's surrender in August of 1945 by dropping atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, still the only time that atomic bombs have been used in conflict. During the war, the U.S. was one of the Allied powers, whereas Japan was one of the Axis powers, allied with Germany and Italy, among others. Suffice it to say, the World War Two relationship between Japan and America isn't pretty — and Abe would have horrors of his own to bring up if he so wanted to.
As Washington Post reporter David Nakamura noted on Twitter, Obama also brought Pearl Harbor up with Abe — but in a completely different sense. The two met at Pearl Harbor to celebrate the reconciliation that had happened between the two countries after the war. According to the Post, Obama called the relationship between the two countries the "cornerstone of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region."
"The U.S. and Japan chose friendship and they chose peace," Obama said at the event, according to the Post. "It has helped underwrite an international order that has prevented another World War."
Abe, for his part, offered his "sincere and everlasting condolences to the souls of those who lost their lives here, as well as to the spirits of all the brave men and women whose lives were taken by a war that commenced in this very place." Although this happened in December of 2016, the Post's reporting did not mention Trump claiming that he remembered this event at Pearl Harbor.