Barack Obama will be the first sitting U.S. President to visit Hiroshima, Japan, which was hit by an American nuclear bomb at the end of World War II.
It’s a visit weighted with quite a bit of symbolism, obviously – any visit by a U.S. President will be seen as tantamount to an implied apology for the estimated 90,000 – 146,000 people that died in Hiroshima because of the bomb. The visit, which comes on the tail of other appearances in Asia, has been debated within the White House for this very reason.
“The president’s time in Hiroshima [will] reaffirm America’s longstanding commitment — and the president’s personal commitment — to pursue the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” said Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communication, Benjamin J. Rhodes.
Japanese officials also avoided calling the visit an apology explicitly. “Japan is the only country to be hit by a nuclear weapon, and we have a responsibility to make sure that terrible experience is never repeated anywhere,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Antinuclear activist Sunao Tsuboi, who survived the blast in 1945, welcomed the President’s planned visit. “Good for him for coming,” said Tsuboi, who has long advocated for such a move.
The issue of ‘apology’ has been a contentious one in the U.S, with many Republicans and their supporters accusing Obama of spending too much time apologising for the past actions of the United States on the global stage. Difficult claim to make, seeing as Obama has continued military engagements across the Middle East and beyond.
The visit is planned for later this month.
Source: New York Times.
Photo: Getty Images / Pool.