by: Joji Sakurai

When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe makes his visit to Pearl Harbor, just after Christmas, it will be a dovish act that masks a hawkish intent.

Mr Abe’s dream is to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution, drawn up by the US under postwar occupation, so allowing the country to have a real army.

The prime minister holds one crucial advantage in pressing for constitutional change — and visiting Pearl Harbor will strengthen that card. The US, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, has long urged Japan to do just what Mr Abe wants: broaden the role and capabilities of the nation’s military. It wants Japan to shoulder its share of the Asian security burden.

The Pearl Harbor visit — standing next to a popular, moderate and statesmanlike president — allows Mr Abe to send the right messages to multiple stakeholders: US veterans, Japan’s neighbours and the Japanese people.