John Kerry makes historic visit to Hiroshima memorial

BBC

John Kerry makes historic visit to Hiroshima memorial

  • 1 hour ago
  • From the section Asia
G7 foreign ministersImage copyright AFP
Image caption The ministers were presented with necklaces made of paper cranes in their national colours

US Secretary of State John Kerry has made a historic visit to the Hiroshima memorial in Japan, which commemorates the world’s first atomic bombing.

He is the first US secretary of state to ever visit Hiroshima, where around 140,000 were killed when the US dropped its atomic bomb in 1945.

Mr Kerry was joined by foreign ministers from the G7 group of nations who are holding talks in the city.

They laid wreaths at the memorial and observed a minute of silence.

The ministers also visited the Bomb Dome, over which the A-bomb exploded, and the nearby Hiroshima museum, which tells the personal stories of people who died.

Mr Kerry wrote in the museum guestbook that it was “a stark, harsh, compelling reminder not only of our obligation to end the threat of nuclear weapons, but to rededicate all our effort to avoid war itself”.
UK Foreign Minister Philip Hammond and US Secretary of State John Key wave at school children at HiroshimaImage copyright AFP
Image caption UK Foreign Minister Philip Hammond and US Secretary of State and other ministers were greeted by Japanese school children

What happened in Hiroshima?

HiroshimaImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption A mushroom cloud over Hiroshima following the explosion of an atomic bomb
A bombed out landscape in Hiroshima, following the explosion of the first atomic bombImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Much of the city was utterly destroyed

At 08:10 local time on 6 August 1945, the US B-29 bomber the Enola Gay dropped a uranium bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” on Hiroshima. It exploded 600m (1,800ft) above what is now the Hiroshima Peace Dome.

About 70,000 people died immediately. At least 140,000 people had died by the end of the year through injury and the effects of radiation.

The bombing, and a second bomb dropped on Nagasaki three days later, forced Japan to surrender, initiating the end of World War Two.

Why is Mr Kerry’s visit significant?

The US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited Hiroshima in 2008, but US diplomats have largely avoided official visits.

Many in the US believe the bombing was necessary to end the war, and do not want their leaders to take any action which might be seen as an apology.

Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, US Secretary of State John Kerry, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Canada's Foreign Minister Stephane Dion lay wreaths at the Hiroshima memorialImage copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Kerry (second left) laid wreaths next to Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and their G7 counterparts
John Kerry and Fumoi Kishida (centre) with other G7 leaders at the Hiroshima memorialImage copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Kerry and Mr Kishida were seen with their arms briefly around each other at the memorial

Mr Kerry previously said his time in Hiroshima would “revisit the past and honour those who perished” but stressed that his trip was “about the present and the future”.

It also comes amid efforts to strengthen the relationship between the US and Japan, particularly with growing concern about China’s assertiveness in territorial disputes in Asia, affecting Japan and other US allies.

Could it lead to further visits?

President Barack Obama is attending a G7 leaders’ summit elsewhere in Japan in May, and there are reports he is considering a stop in Hiroshima.

If it happens, it will be the first time a sitting US president visits Hiroshima.


Read more about the world’s first atomic bomb

Source: “John Kerry makes historic visit to Hiroshima memorial”, BBC News, 11 April 2016

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