Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in front of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner, on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 29, 2015.
Gary Cameron / Reuters

On April 29, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivered a historic speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress. In the weeks leading up to his visit, observers argued that his success would be measured by the extent to which he addressed and further apologized for Imperial Japan’s wartime deeds. His message about the U.S.–Japanese alliance or his vision of Japan’s regional role came in a distant second.

On all counts, Abe’s speech was a success. He adeptly discussed Imperial Japan’s war against the United States and the importance of reconciliation, and then explicitly laid out the role he sees the alliance playing in the world; he also reminded Congress of the shared values that form its foundation.

Prior to his visit, Abe was something of an unknown in Washington. People had heard of him, of course, but reports tended to focus on

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  • JEFFREY W. HORNUNG is Associate Professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) and an Adjunct Fellow with the Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The views expressed here are the author's own.
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