TOKYO: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday said that US President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima during the Group of Seven summit later this month.
The visit, which will be the first to the A-bombed city by a sitting US President, is scheduled to take place on May 27, the final day of the two-day summit, Abe said, adding that he will accompany the leader.
“I welcome President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima from the bottom of my heart,” Abe told reporters in the evening.
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.
Obama, who took office in Jan. 2009, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize the same year for his stated intention to seek a world devoid of nuclear weapons, a commitment he made in a high-profile speech in Prague three months after his inauguration.
Obama will visit Hiroshima with Abe “to highlight his continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Asked whether an apology was needed for America’s decision to deploy the powerful weapons against Japan, Abe deflected and said the Hiroshima visit must have been a “huge decision” for Obama to make.
He added that a joint visit by the leader of the only nation to use atomic bombs in warfare and the leader of the only nation to be attacked by them will show respect to the victims. Hiroshima was bombed on Aug. 6, 1945, and Nagasaki three days later.
An online posting by Ben Rhodes, US Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting, suggested that an apology from Obama was not in the offing.
“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,” he posted on the website Medium.com.
Obama might also lay a wreath at a cenotaph in Peace Memorial Park near ground zero, where a museum displays artifacts gathered from atomic bomb victims and survivors, US government officials said earlier.
Expectations for a visit by Obama gained momentum after John Kerry became the first US secretary of state to visit Hiroshima at the G-7 foreign ministers meeting last month, which was held in the city.