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Obama to make historic visit to Hiroshima

May 10, 2016

US President Barack Obama has decided, after some delay, to visit Hiroshima on his trip to Asia later this month. He will be the first US president to visit the city since its annihilation by a US atomic bomb in 1945.

Japan Gedenkzeremonie 70. Jahrestag Atombombenabwurf Hiroshima
Image: Getty Images/AFP/K. Nogi

Obama will be in Japan and Vietnam from May 21 to May 28, with a Group of Seven summit in Japan lined up for the second part of the trip, the White House said in a statement.

On his 10th visit to Asia during his presidency, Obama will accompany Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Hiroshima, one of two Japanese cities on which the US dropped nuclear bombs late in the Second World War.

USA Treffen japanischer Premierminister Shinzo Abe mit Obama
The Japanese government is taking over the rotating G7 presidency from Germany this yearImage: Reuters/K. Lamarque

The US dropped the world's first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, killing around 140,000 people, on August 6, 1945. Three days later, the US military dropped a plutonium bomb on the port city of Nagasaki, killing 74,000 people. By August 15, Japan announced its surrender, formally completing it by early September that year.

Japan has long urged world leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki to see the effects of atomic bombings and join efforts to eradicate nuclear arms.

A world without nukes

"[This visit will] highlight his [Obama's] continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," said White House press secretary Josh Earnest.

US Secretary of State John Kerry (C) offers a wreath at the Memorial Cenotaph for the 1945 atomic bombing victims in the Peace Memorial Park, on the sidelines of the G7 Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Hiroshima on April 11, 2016
Secretary of State John Kerry visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park last month, becoming the top-ranking US official to do soImage: Getty Images/AFP/K. Nogi

Secretary of State John Kerry became the highest-ranking US political figure to visit Hiroshima, when he visited in April.

Kerry said he was "deeply moved" by the experience and a "gut-wrenching display that tugs at all your sensibilities as a human being."

Revisiting Pearl Harbor

The White House had hesitated over a presidential visit given it falls only months before the 75th anniversary of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in December, in Obama's home state of Hawaii.

Earnest said Obama does not believe the United States owes Japan an apology.

According to a blog post from US Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, Obama would confine his comments to reflections on the significance of the site and events that occurred there. "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.

jbh/msh (Reuters, AFP)