President Barack Obama will become the first sitting president to visit Hiroshima since the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb in 1945.
President Barack Obama will become the first sitting president to visit Hiroshima, Japan, the site where the United States dropped the first atomic bomb used in war. The president’s aim is to advance his goal of nuclear disarmament in his final year.
Questions have been raised about what Obama will say during his visit, including whether he would offer an apology for the WWII attack. White House officials have already countered rumors of an apology by saying that the U.S. does not owe Japan a formal apology and that the visit will act as a reminder of how vast the destruction is when nuclear weapons are used.
Ben Rhodes,Obama’s deputy national security adviser, commented:
“He will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II. Instead, he will offer a forward-looking vision focused on our shared future.”
The stop, scheduled for May 27, will include a visit to Peace Memorial Park, which was built on top of the commercial district destroyed in the attack. President Obama will be accompanied by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he pays his respects at the site; he will be the highest-ranking U.S. official to do so.
A presidential visit has long been a goal of the president’s, and he has considered it in each of the three times he visited Japan. He is said to have decided against it in the past as a way to avoid the perception that he is an apologetic commander-in-chief.
In 2009, during his first visit to Japan, Obama said:
“The memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are etched in the minds of the world, and I would be honored to have the opportunity to visit those cities at some point during my presidency.”
At the time, a Japanese government official had told the U.S. ambassador that “it would be premature to include a visit to Hiroshima.”
Since then, the United States and Japan have continued working through their grievances regarding World War II offenses and Obama has worked towards stemming the spread of nuclear weapons. These factors have made a visit to the site of destruction more feasible and welcomed.
Rhodes wrote on Mean Tuesday:
“The President and his team will make this visit knowing that the open recognition of history is essential to understanding our shared past, the forces that shape the world we live in today, and the future that we seek for our children and grandchildren.”
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