According to an article published this week by the Washington Post, at some point during a June meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe where he criticized Japan’s trade policies, U.S. President Donald Trump was allegedly heard to say something in the vein of, “I remember Pearl Harbor,” referring to Japan’s surprise attack on the Hawaiian base during World War II.
The article in the Washington Post implies that the words were unexpected and uncalled for, and that Prime Minister Abe was “left exasperated” after the meeting. Naturally, U.S. media sources and social media networks will blast off with their own conclusions about the statement, but what do Japanese netizens think?
Yahoo! Japan has a real-time, still-ongoing list of Twitter responses to the newsline based on the keyword “真珠湾攻撃”, which is Japanese for “the attack on Pearl Harbor”, and surprisingly, most netizens were quite level-headed about it. Many were quick to point out that there was more to the phrase than the Washington Post and some Japanese newspapers reported. Yahoo! Japan News reported that Trump said something more like, “I haven’t forgotten Pearl Harbor. Japan fought a lot more in the past. They should be more like America and compete with their neighbors more.”
Of course, this is an English translation of a Japanese translation of words allegedly spoken by President Trump in English, so it’s very likely that the meaning has been skewed a little bit. Most English news sources aren’t reporting the whole sentence, so it’s difficult to know what President Trump really said, but many Japanese netizens guessed that he was speaking in terms of Japan’s will to fight, that he remembers how tenacious they are (because of Pearl Harbor), and that they should fight like that now for good trade policies.
Since many Japanese news sources were reporting on the full quotation, many netizens were thus quite understanding of the president’s statement, and instead criticized “fake news” and “divisive media”:
“Ohh I see. He wasn’t complaining, he’s actually saying something respectful, like, ‘America hasn’t forgotten that Japan can fight in international trade.'”
“I heard this on the radio and thought, ‘What is he saying out of nowhere?’…but that’s the rest of it? You can’t even say [this reporting] is fake news or fabricating impressions, this is more like propaganda!”
“If he’s only saying it, I don’t mind. All we can do is say back, ‘Yeah, our people remember the mass killings of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs.’ Besides, they still have atomic bombs.”
“He’s just saying, ‘You have to work hard like you did at Pearl Harbor!”
“It looks like this is fake!? It seems like he’s saying, ‘Japan was strong during Pearl Harbor. You should be strong now…'”
“There it is! Cutting down words and crafting impressions. All of you sheep should buckle up and do some studying!”
Others, however, slightly incensed by the comment, were quick to return rebuttals:
“Roosevelt knew beforehand that the Japanese Navy was coming, and there was information that Japanese air carriers were on their way. America’s elite Flying Tigers force were dressed up as Chinese soldiers and were shooting down Japanese planes, so America had already been in the war anyway.”
“You remember the attack of Pearl Harbor? Well, we remember the atomic bombs. Japan has been the victim of America and Korea over and over again.”
“Those who are in the know, know. Japan may have attacked Pearl Harbor, but American Flying Tigers still attacked Japan from China without any declaration of war first.”
Others, appalled at what they thought was an insensitive comment, were critical of President Trump:
“It sounds like he was trying to say, ‘You can fight fiercely like you did at Pearl Harbor, right?’, but in that case wouldn’t America just drop another atomic bomb? Trump definitely looks like he’s Russia’s dog.”
“Trump’s statement this time really makes it clear that he has no self-awareness as a president.”
“Are these really the words of someone who is hoping for peace? Or are they the words of someone who wants to stand at the top of the world?”
Some netizens, on the other hand, didn’t seem to care much about the statements at all, and instead used them to make social commentaries on their own country.
“More importantly, when China or Korea criticizes Japan, the Japanese media goes crazy. It’s mysterious that after America says something like this, the mass media is silent.”
“Mr Trump, Abe will still be your loyal dog even if you say something like that!”
Without actually being in the room with Prime Minister Abe and President Trump, there’s no way we’ll know for sure what he meant to say. Nevertheless, there have been some widely publicized awkward moments between the two leaders, like when they shook hands for far too long, or when Prime Minister Abe took a tumble into a golf course sandpit and President Trump didn’t seem to notice, so it wouldn’t be surprising if a little tension in the air made them say some awkward things.
Source: Yahoo! Japan News/FNN, Kyodo, Washington Post, Yahoo! Japan
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