President Barack Obama is set to become the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima – but will also disappoint many people who think he should apologize for dropping the A-bomb.
The visit was announced by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The president will use the visit to double-down on his call for global nuclear disarmament, coinciding with the upcoming G7 summit later this month to take place in Japan.
“I welcome President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima from the bottom of my heart,” Prime Minister Abe told The Japan Times during the announcement.
President Obama’s stance on nuclear weapons is not surprising. The commander-in-chief made his commitment to ending their use clear in Prague just months after his inauguration in 2009. What many Japanese politicians and citizens are hoping for is an official apology from the US leader for President Truman’s decision to use them.
But apology hopefuls have no reason to hold their breath.
“He will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II,”National Security Council spokesman Ben Rhodes wrote in a Medium post. “Instead, he will offer a forward-looking vision focused on our shared future.”
THE JAPAN TIMES Says Visit Will Make Impact
The act of viewing the city destroyed by the world’s first atomic bomb to be used in warfare, the suffering of its victims and describing his feelings about the visit will greatly help Obama’s bid to rid the world of nuclear weapons, the prime minister said.
USA TODAY Says Visit Is Key For The President’s Platform
Obama, who has made reduction of nuclear weapons a major project of his administration, said as far back as 2009 that a visit to Hiroshima “would be meaningful to me.”
VOICE OF AMERICA Says Obama Weighs Decision On Apology
America’s use of nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki to hasten Japan’s unconditional surrender in World War II remains a controversial issue. From the perspective of the victors, the atomic bombs saved the lives of many American troops as well as Japanese by bringing an early end to the war.
Apology For Hiroshima
Almost 130,000 Japanese citizens were killed in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which forced Japan to surrender and finally end World War II in August 1945. The United States remains the only country to ever use nuclear weapons during an armed conflict.
The decision to use the atomic bomb remains a controversial debate over 70 years after the fact. Defenders say the attack saved the lives of both American troops as well as Japanese citizens by bringing the war to a quicker close. At the time, Japanese forces were directed to avoid surrender at all costs.
It’s true Japan is not blameless for the atrocities of the Second World War. Many may cringe acknowledging the fact, but America’s victory paved the way for the spread of democracy, free trade, and civil liberties in parts of the world where these principles were previously absent.
However, an apology for decimating hundreds of thousands of people is not a lot for Japan to ask. If anything, it may serve to reinforce Obama’s point that the world is better without nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, that genie is already out the bottle and can’t be put back. Nuclear weapons cannot be disinvented and many of them are already in the hands of rogue governments.