Barack Obama will make a historic visit to Hiroshima this month to “highlight his continued commitment” to nuclear disarmament, becoming the first sitting US president to tour the site where America first dropped an atomic bomb in 1945, killing an estimated 140,000 people.
The White House today said that Obama, who has been often accused by critics of making an “apology tour” to the Middle East and Europe during the first year of his presidency for the misdeeds of the Bush administration, will visit Hiroshima when he travels to Japan and Vietnam from May 21 to 28.
“The President will make a historic visit to Hiroshima with Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe to highlight his continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said in a blog post that “in making this visit, the President will shine a spotlight on the tremendous and devastating human toll of war.”
Rhodes said that Obama, a Nobel laureate, will visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, a once-ruined site at the centre of the city dedicated to the victims of the atomic bombing, on May 27 where he will share his reflections on the significance of the site the events that occurred there.
But he reaffirmed that the US president is unlikely to seek apology for that chapter in the American history.
“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,” Rhodes wrote.
The symbolic visit would come after months of debate and speculation. Obama will be joined with Prime Minister Abe, who is hosting the G-7 summit in Ise-Shima later this month.
In April, secretary of state John Kerry visited the city, where 140,000 people died after the bombing on August 6, 1945, including those who died from severe radiation exposure.
After a second bombing of Nagasaki – the World War II ended. But opinions remain divided whether their use ended the brutality of the war and avoided a US invasion of Japan.
Rhodes said Obama’s visit will reaffirm US’ long-standing commitment and the President’s personal commitment to pursue peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.
“As the President has said, the United States has a special responsibility to continue to lead in pursuit of that objective as we are the only nation to have used a nuclear weapon,” he said.
“That commitment has guided our efforts to promote non-proliferation and nuclear security a theme at the heart of four Nuclear Security Summits that the President hosted and to take concrete steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our security and in the policies of other global powers,” Rhodes said.
This would be particularly sensitive for Obama’s visit. This December marks the 75th anniversary of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, in Obama’s home state of Hawaii.