Hiroshima memory must never fade, Obama says on historic visit
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- From the section Asia
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Barack Obama has become the first serving US president to visit Hiroshima since the World War Two nuclear attack.
Mr Obama said the memory of 6 August 1945 must never fade, but did not apologise for the US attack – the world’s first and only nuclear bombing.
Mr Obama spoke to a number of survivors and in an address called on nations to pursue a world without nuclear weapons.
At least 140,000 people died in Hiroshima and another 74,000 two days later in a second bombing in Nagasaki.
‘Best of friends’
Mr Obama first visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum before walking to the Peace Memorial Park, accompanied by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Both men stood in front of the eternal flame. Mr Obama laid a wreath first, followed by Mr Abe.
“Death fell from the sky and the world was changed,” Mr Obama said in his address, noting that the bombing had shown that “mankind possessed the means to destroy itself”.
Mr Obama said the memory of Hiroshima must never fade: “It allows us to fight complacencies, fuels our moral imagination and allows us to change.”
Of nuclear weapons, he said: “We must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.”
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Mr Obama had earlier flown into the nearby Iwakuni Marine Corp base nearby, after leaving the G7 summit.
Mr Obama told service personnel at the base: “This is an opportunity to honour the memory of all who were lost during World War Two.”
Mr Obama praised the US-Japan alliance as “one of the strongest in the world”, with his visit “a testament to how even the most painful divides can be bridged – how our two nations, former adversaries, cannot just become partners, but become the best of friends and the strongest of allies”.
The BBC’s John Sudworth, in Hiroshima, says that although Mr Obama made it clear there would be no apology for the attack, few would deny that this was a deeply symbolic gesture; the leader of the only country ever to have used an atomic weapon laying a wreath in a city that has come to symbolise the perils of our nuclear age.
Many in the US believe the use of the nuclear bomb, though devastating, was right, because it forced Japan to surrender, bringing an end to World War Two.
The daughter of one survivor, who was visiting the memorial on Friday, said the suffering had “carried on over the generations”.
“That is what I want President Obama to know,” Han Jeong-soon, 58, told the Associated Press news agency. “I want him to understand our sufferings.”
Seiki Sato, whose father was orphaned by the bomb, told the New York Times: “We Japanese did terrible, terrible things all over Asia. That is true. And we Japanese should say we are sorry because we are so ashamed, and we have not apologised sincerely to all these Asian countries. But the dropping of the atomic bomb was completely evil.”
‘Just listen’ – Japan’s media on the visit
The Chugoku Shimbun urges Mr Obama to “hear the voices of Hiroshima”. “The people of Hiroshima will be watching the president closely, eyeing to what extent he is truly resolved to advance the abolition of nuclear arms,” it said.
The Asahi Shimbun carries an article saying Mr Obama’s “gestures will shape the visit”, with the “most powerful gesture” being to “just listen to the bomb victims’ memories of suffering and activism”.
The Japan Times says: “To truly pay homage to those whose lives were lost or irrevocably altered by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, Obama’s visit must galvanise the international community to move without delay toward a world free of nuclear weapons. The fact that these weapons have not been used over the past 70 years does not guarantee a risk-free future for our children.”
Source: BBC Monitoring
Jimmy Carter visited Hiroshima in 1984, after the end of his presidency.
A US ambassador attended the annual commemoration for the first time in 2010.
Hiroshima – world’s first nuclear attack
- The bomb was nicknamed “Little Boy” and was thought to have the explosive force of 20,000 tonnes of TNT
- Paul Tibbets, a 30-year-old colonel from Illinois, led the mission to drop the atomic bomb on Japan
- The Enola Gay, the plane which dropped the bomb, was named in tribute to Col Tibbets’ mother
- The final target was decided less than an hour before the bomb was dropped. The good weather conditions over Hiroshima sealed the city’s fate
- On detonation, the temperature at the burst-point of the bomb was several million degrees. Thousands of people on the ground were killed or injured instantly