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Obama to be first sitting president to visit Hiroshima

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, fourth from left, put his arm around Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida after they and fellow G7 foreign ministers laid wreaths at the cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, western Japan on April 11. U.S. President Barack Obama will travel to Hiroshima in May in the first visit by a sitting American president to the site where the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    President Barack Obama spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during their March 31 meeting at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.

WASHINGTON » In a moment seven decades in the making, President Barack Obama this month will become the first sitting American president to visit Hiroshima, where the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb during World War II, decimating a city and exploding the world into the Atomic Age.

Obama will visit the site with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a previously scheduled trip to Japan, the White House announced today.

The president intends to “highlight his continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Obama will not apologize for the bombing, the White House made clear. And Abe said none was expected nor necessary, suggesting the visit itself would send a powerful message.

“The prime minister of the world’s only nation to have suffered atomic attacks, and the leader of the world’s only nation to have used the atomic weapons at war will together pay respects for the victims,” Abe told reporters late today. “I believe that would be a way to respond to the victims of the atomic bombings and the survivors who are still in pain.”

The president’s visit has been widely anticipated since U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to the Hiroshima memorial in April. Kerry toured the peace museum with other foreign ministers of the Group of Seven industrialized nations and participated in an annual memorial service just steps from the site’s ground zero.

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui praised Obama’s plan to visit as a “bold decision based on conscience and rationality,” adding that he hopes Obama will have a chance to hear the survivors’ stories. He also expressed hope the visit would be “a historic first step toward an international effort toward abolishing nuclear weapons, which is a wish of all mankind.”

The U.S. attack on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, in the final days of World War II, killed 140,000 people and badly burned many thousands more. While it scarred a generation of Japanese, both physically and mentally, many Americans believe the bombing, along with another Aug. 9 on the city of Nagasaki, hastened the end of the war and saved countless other lives. Japan announced it would surrender on Aug. 15.

Diverging views about an act that forever changed war have made a visit from a sitting U.S. president a delicate and arguably politically risky move. Former President Jimmy Carter did visit, in 1984, three years after he left office.

It took 65 years for a U.S. ambassador to attend the annual memorial service. In the U.S., officials remain wary that a presidential visit could be perceived as an apology for an act believed to have saved American lives.

Sunao Tsuboi, 91, a survivor of the bombing and head of a survivors’ group in the western Japanese city, welcomed the decision.

“The day has finally come,” Tsuboi told Japan’s NHK national television.

“We are not asking for an apology,” Tsuboi said. “All we want is to see him lay flowers at the peace park and lower his head in silence. This would be a first step toward abolishing nuclear weapons.”

Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue said he respected Obama for what he saw as a tough decision.

“I expect that the president will send a powerful message, in his own words, toward achieving a world without nuclear weapons,” Taue said in a statement.

Kevin Martin, president of Peace Action, a U.S.-based group, said Obama should use the visit to announce specific steps to “bring the world closer to being free of nuclear weapons,” such as reducing the number of nuclear warheads in reserve.

“Obama will look insincere if his words espouse ridding the world of nuclear weapons while at the same time his administration continues its plan to spend a trillion dollars over 30 years to upgrade nuclear weapons,” Martin said in a statement.

Early in his presidency, Obama said he would be honored to make the trip, and the White House has said it often considered a visit on previous trips to Asia. It has not explained why a visit there has never come together.

Asked last week whether the president believes an apology is warranted, Earnest was direct: “No, he does not.”

In a statement posted as the visit was announced, a senior White House official added that the president does not intend to wade into past debates.

“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,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said. “The United States will be eternally proud of our civilian leaders and the men and women of our armed forces who served in World War II for their sacrifice at a time of maximum peril to our country and our world. Their cause was just, and we owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude.”

Obama will be in Japan to attend the Group of 7 economic summit, part of a weeklong Asia tour that will also include a stop in Vietnam.

Associated Press writers Bradley Klapper and Nancy Benac in Washington and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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  • Mr. President sure likes to feed his big ego flying around the World like that. The reason he’s the first President to visit Hiroshima is the shame of this inhumane act to mankind.
    Mr. President has no shame.

  • So proud of him for doing this – long overdue. My father, a US Navy officer in uniform, happened to be in Hiroshima on the day President Kennedy was assassinated. He was stunned to find so many Japanese people coming up to him in tears, and saying how sad they were that the president had been killed. This was less than 20 years after the atomic bomb, with the city still rebuilding. For my father that day was a reminder of our common humanity, and it reinforced his belief in the basic goodness of people.

    • Perhaps the only country to which we owe an apology. indiscriminate annihilation of civilian populations. Internment of American citizens. Confiscation of private property. Nuclear holocaust…. you know, all those themes my conservative friends deplore in our federal government.

        • Don’t you know that the “internment of U.S. citizens” was mainly internment of U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry? See the connection? War with Japan – Japanese ancestry?

        • You could try to explain it, but that would be futile. I wonder at times if people like sjean would even have cared if the Germans had A-bombed us first.

      • The historical vacuum in your cranium regarding the predations of the Empire of Japan is as vast as space and your perspective is as out of kilter as a work by Picasso.

        Perhaps we should apologize to the Russians and Chinese for the Cold war, the Germans for WWII???

        You have conservative friends? Now there’s a true miracle of human tolerance.

        • I’m not suggesting an apology to the Empire of japan. I believe the innocent civilians are owed one. I also believe the world is owed an apology by any government responsible for the creation and propagation of nuclear weapons. I have many conservative friends. i like being the smartest person in the room.

        • The tendency of some on these boards to express mediocre ideas through garrulous, meaningless expectoration of gratuitous multisyllabic (undoubtedly thesaurus-referenced) words in failed attempts to appear articulate does not even rise to the level of pretentiousness…

          …But, it’s worth a few laughs.

          And, in case you missed the memo, Picasso is mostly remembered for his genius.

        • Sjean. “Feeling” like you’re the smartest person in the room and “being” the smartest person in the room are two distinct things. Since liberalism is built on feelings, it’s understandable.

    • Peanut, Japan is not the only country Obama has not yet apologized to. Please note that on this trip he is also going to Viet Nam, where his apology tour can continue. He will apologize to both, and probably some more later this year.

  • Believe the Japanese people perceive death much differently than Westerners. Even survivors do not expect an apology from the President. All they expect is the ridding of nuclear weaponry. This notion of death is further amplified by the refusal of the different Prime Minister to apologize to China when they individually visited the Yasukini-Jinja where the exploits of their national heroes are enshrined. They are Orientals but differ when brave deeds are performed for National interests. They have apologized to the Korean Government/people with regard to the “comfort women” tragedies and have made some recompense.

  • As you can see, the repugs chime in above. Mr.President, thank you for your service. This visit is long over due. I’m glad you don’t March lockstep as the past presidents did. As they would cry”We as AMERICANS absolutely do not apologize”. Why stay on the ground and watch the repugs eat their own during the next few months. Obama should apologize to the world for a nut like Trumfp.

  • Why go as President? It is a symbolic move for the hypocrite to go to Hiroshima to demonstrate how evil America was and still is. He doesn’t have to apologize, he’ll go there and act contrite and his actions will speak louder than words. Obama is a lame duck president that wants to drag America down just enough to appeal to the liberal wingnuts so that his buddy Hilliary gets elected.

  • I hope he visits Fukushima too. Apparently that is where the crisis is. WE nuked them at Hiroshima, now we are being nuked from Fukushima, along with our entire Pacific Ocean. Thank you!! Mabuhay!! Aloha!!

  • This is the reality of RadioActive Nuclear RAdiation, just in case no one doesn’t know. Wonder why polar bears lose their hair. Their NOT soppose to be losing their hair!! Their polar bears!!

    • Why are you blaming radio-active nuclear radiation for some polar bears losing their hair? Scientists studying polar bears say the cause remains unknown but could involve environmental pollutants, nutrient deficiencies, infectious pathogens and the bugaboo of all – climate change. Nuclear radiation is not listed as a possible cause.

  • Obama may not explicitly apologize for the A-bombing, but I will not be surprised if he says or suggests in some way that the US should have found an alternative which will be akin to an apology.

    • The visit is an apology, period. Subtle, but obviously an apology. This is in keeping with Obama’s unshakable determination to demean his own country, a country he clearly views as a glass less than half empty, more wrong than right.

      He is the first product of the sour crop to be produced by the radical, hate America cult (chomsky, Zinn) that owns our universities to reach great political office. Sadly, more will follow as our progressive indoctrination diploma mills churn out more graduates in race, class, and gender studies.

        • Well, he’s apologized to the whole world by denigrating his own country. Here are ten examples:

          1. Apology to France and Europe (“America Has Shown Arrogance”)

          Speech by President Obama, Rhenus Sports Arena, Strasbourg, France, April 3, 2009.[1]

          So we must be honest with ourselves. In recent years we’ve allowed our Alliance to drift. I know that there have been honest disagreements over policy, but we also know that there’s something more that has crept into our relationship. In America, there’s a failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.
          2. Apology to the Muslim World (“We Have Not Been Perfect”)

          President Obama, interview with Al Arabiya, January 27, 2009.[2]

          My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy. We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect. But if you look at the track record, as you say, America was not born as a colonial power, and that the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there’s no reason why we can’t restore that.
          3. Apology to the Summit of the Americas (“At Times We Sought to Dictate Our Terms”)

          President Obama, address to the Summit of the Americas opening ceremony, Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, April 17, 2009.[3]

          All of us must now renew the common stake that we have in one another. I know that promises of partnership have gone unfulfilled in the past, and that trust has to be earned over time. While the United States has done much to promote peace and prosperity in the hemisphere, we have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms. But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership. There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations; there is simply engagement based on mutual respect and common interests and shared values. So I’m here to launch a new chapter of engagement that will be sustained throughout my administration.
          The United States will be willing to acknowledge past errors where those errors have been made.
          4. Apology at the G-20 Summit of World Leaders (“Some Restoration of America’s Standing in the World”)

          News conference by President Obama, ExCel Center, London, United Kingdom, April 2, 2009.[4]

          I would like to think that with my election and the early decisions that we’ve made, that you’re starting to see some restoration of America’s standing in the world. And although, as you know, I always mistrust polls, international polls seem to indicate that you’re seeing people more hopeful about America’s leadership.
          I just think in a world that is as complex as it is, that it is very important for us to be able to forge partnerships as opposed to simply dictating solutions. Just to try to crystallize the example, there’s been a lot of comparison here about Bretton Woods. “Oh, well, last time you saw the entire international architecture being remade.” Well, if there’s just Roosevelt and Churchill sitting in a room with a brandy, that’s an easier negotiation. But that’s not the world we live in, and it shouldn’t be the world that we live in.
          5. Apology for the War on Terror (“We Went off Course”)

          President Obama, speech at the National Archives, Washington, D.C., May 21, 2009.[5]

          Unfortunately, faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions. I believe that many of these decisions were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people. But I also believe that all too often our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight; that all too often our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, too often we set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And during this season of fear, too many of us–Democrats and Republicans, politicians, journalists, and citizens–fell silent.
          In other words, we went off course. And this is not my assessment alone. It was an assessment that was shared by the American people who nominated candidates for President from both major parties who, despite our many differences, called for a new approach–one that rejected torture and one that recognized the imperative of closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
          6. Apology for Guantanamo in France (“Sacrificing Your Values”)

          Speech by President Obama, Rhenus Sports Arena, Strasbourg, France, April 3, 2009.[6]

          Our two republics were founded in service of these ideals. In America, it is written into our founding documents as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” In France: “Liberté”–absolutely–“egalité, fraternité.” Our moral authority is derived from the fact that generations of our citizens have fought and bled to uphold these values in our nations and others. And that’s why we can never sacrifice them for expedience’s sake. That’s why I’ve ordered the closing of the detention center in Guantanamo Bay. That’s why I can stand here today and say without equivocation or exception that the United States of America does not and will not torture.
          In dealing with terrorism, we can’t lose sight of our values and who we are. That’s why I closed Guantanamo. That’s why I made very clear that we will not engage in certain interrogation practices. I don’t believe that there is a contradiction between our security and our values. And when you start sacrificing your values, when you lose yourself, then over the long term that will make you less secure.
          7. Apology before the Turkish Parliament (“Our Own Darker Periods in Our History”)

          Speech by President Obama to the Turkish Parliament, Ankara, Turkey, April 6, 2009.[7]

          Every challenge that we face is more easily met if we tend to our own democratic foundation. This work is never over. That’s why, in the United States, we recently ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. That’s why we prohibited–without exception or equivocation–the use of torture. All of us have to change. And sometimes change is hard.
          Another issue that confronts all democracies as they move to the future is how we deal with the past. The United States is still working through some of our own darker periods in our history. Facing the Washington Monument that I spoke of is a memorial of Abraham Lincoln, the man who freed those who were enslaved even after Washington led our Revolution. Our country still struggles with the legacies of slavery and segregation, the past treatment of Native Americans.
          Human endeavor is by its nature imperfect. History is often tragic, but unresolved, it can be a heavy weight. Each country must work through its past. And reckoning with the past can help us seize a better future.
          8. Apology for U.S. Policy toward the Americas (“The United States Has Not Pursued and Sustained Engagement with Our Neighbors”)

          Opinion editorial by President Obama: “Choosing a Better Future in the Americas,” April 16, 2009.[8]

          Too often, the United States has not pursued and sustained engagement with our neighbors. We have been too easily distracted by other priorities, and have failed to see that our own progress is tied directly to progress throughout the Americas. My Administration is committed to the promise of a new day. We will renew and sustain a broader partnership between the United States and the hemisphere on behalf of our common prosperity and our common security.
          9. Apology for the Mistakes of the CIA (“Potentially We’ve Made Some Mistakes”)

          Remarks by the President to CIA employees, CIA Headquarters, Langley, Virginia, April 20, 2009.[9] The remarks followed the controversial decision to release Office of Legal Counsel memoranda detailing CIA enhanced interrogation techniques used against terrorist suspects.

          So don’t be discouraged by what’s happened in the last few weeks. Don’t be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we’ve made some mistakes. That’s how we learn. But the fact that we are willing to acknowledge them and then move forward, that is precisely why I am proud to be President of the United States, and that’s why you should be proud to be members of the CIA.
          10. Apology for Guantanamo in Washington (“A Rallying Cry for Our Enemies”)

          President Obama, speech at the National Archives, Washington, D.C., May 21, 2009.[10]

          There is also no question that Guantanamo set back the moral authority that is America’s strongest currency in the world. Instead of building a durable framework for the struggle against al Qaeda that drew upon our deeply held values and traditions, our government was defending positions that undermined the rule of law. In fact, part of the rationale for establishing Guantanamo in the first place was the misplaced notion that a prison there would be beyond the law–a proposition that the Supreme Court soundly rejected. Meanwhile, instead of serving as a tool to counter terrorism, Guantanamo became a symbol that helped al Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause. Indeed, the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.
          So the record is clear: Rather than keeping us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security. It is a rallying cry for our enemies.”

        • No, he went to Bitburg to get some Bitburger Pils directly from the source. It is the best pilsner beer in the world.

        • Well, BS, the yawning symbolic difference between a German military cemetery and the site of the a-bomb attack is, uh, yawning.

  • Funny how President Obama pays his respects to Hiroshima, the world nods in respect, but Donald Trump thinks it’s a sign of weakness. What does THAT say about Trump and his followers ?? The benevolent conqueror ALWAYS has the gratitude and respect of the conquered. Just ask Germany or China how their conquered people feel about them.

  • WE have to do more to cover up this nuclear radiation disaster, especially the one from Fukushima. We don’t want to offend our host culture, and their culture, Hawaii-Japan. The less that people know about Fukushima, the better we Hawaii are off. This was I can become more popular, I don’t want to be known as the “grim reaper”, heck, I’m running for Mayor and CongressWoman, you don’t want grim reaping news coming out of my mouth, right? So the more we keep silent, the better, and I will promise to keep my mouth shut about the harmful effects of nuclear radiation from Fukushima. I promise to NOT talk about the whales and the marine mammals that are dieing, are dead, and extinct. I won’t talk about how nuclear radiation may create deformities as it did in Chernobyl, and Iraq. I promise to NOT talk about it, because I know here in Hawaii, we don’t want to hear it, we don’t want to accept it!! Thank you!! #Kaaihue4Mayor #Kaaihue4Congress

    • No, it is FALSE! Only four Presidents have visited Normandy on D-Day and one of them was Obama, who attended the 65th anniversary ceremony in 2009 and dedicated the new visitor center at the U.S. Military Cemetery.

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