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Obama at Pearl Harbor: US must not 'turn inward'

Obama at Pearl Harbor: US must not 'turn inward'
© Getty

President Obama on Tuesday urged the country not to turn inward as he prepares to hand off the White House to his successor, Donald TrumpDonald TrumpBiden prepares to confront Putin Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting Senate investigation of insurrection falls short MORE

Obama spoke during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s historic visit to Pearl Harbor, where his country’s attack 75 years ago pushed the United States into World War II.  

Both leaders hailed their nation’s efforts to reconcile after the war, saying it shows how bitter enemies can become trusted allies.

“The fruits of peace always outweigh the plunder of war,” Obama said.  

“It is here that we remember that even when hatred burns hottest, even when the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward, we must resist the urge to demonize those who are different.”

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Obama and Abe are the first American and Japanese leaders, respectively, to make a joint visit to the attack site, a gesture heavy with symbolism.  

The event also highlighted the sharp differences between Obama's and Trump’s foreign policy views, with just 24 days to go until the handover of power. 

Obama said the country’s post-war alliance with Japan has never been stronger, holding it up as a cornerstone of the “international order” that has maintained peace and stability throughout the world.  

The future of that relationship under Trump is uncertain. 

During his campaign, the Republican questioned the value of the U.S. alliances in the Asia-Pacific region. He suggested Japan and South Korea should obtain their own nuclear weapons so the U.S. doesn’t have to bear the cost of defending them against rivals like China and North Korea. 

Trump was also a major critic of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact that Obama and Abe have both championed. 

But the Japanese leader extended an olive branch to Trump, becoming the first foreign leader to meet with him after his November victory. 

Abe formed a bond with Obama over the past several years, which was on full display Tuesday.  

Obama thanked Abe for visiting Pearl Harbor, calling it “a historic gesture that speaks to the power of reconciliation.” 

The Japanese leader did not apologize for the attack, just as the president did not apologize for the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, during his visit there seven months ago.  

But Abe did offer his “sincere and everlasting condolences” to the 2,403 American service members who lost their lives in the surprise attack. 

“We must never repeat the horrors of war again,” Abe said. “This is the solemn vow we the people of Japan have taken.”