Following a period of speculation as to whether or not he would visit the city whose name is synonymous with the nuclear weapons, US President Barack Obama has announced within recent days that he will be going to Hiroshima while he is in Japan for the G7 Summit. However, an apology is not a part of the trip; both the visit and the decision not to apologize have raised considerable debate.
Obama’s visit to Hiroshima is a historic gesture: no other sitting US president has come to the city, which was bombed by US forces on August 6, 1945. John Kerry made history himself as the first US Secretary of State to visit Hiroshima last month, an experience that he called a “‘gut-wrenching‘ reminder of the need to get rid of nuclear weapons.”
Nuclear nonproliferation has been an important part of Obama’s foreign policy approach throughout his two terms in office, and it is certain that he will address the topic of atomic weapons when he visits Hiroshima and its memorial along with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. But his staff has already made it clear that Obama will not be apologizing in any way for the US Forces’ bombing of Hiroshima or Nagasaki.
In the US, this decision has been met with mixed reviews, given that the 2016 presidential election season is in full swing. While those sympathetic to Obama’s policies and administration are in support of the symbolic visit, many on the right see his visit as a sign of weakness, part of a pattern that has been dubbed “Obama’s apology tour.” (Some voices farther to the left are taking Obama to task for not apologizing.)
Meanwhile, in Japan, the general feeling seems to be that there is no need for an apology. Abe has made no such request, and in an LA Times article written before Obama’s decision to come to Hiroshima was announced, Jake Adelstein explains several reasons why the Japanese government really doesn’t want an apology. Yesterday, a survey of people from Tokyo, Kanagawa, and Chiba by The Japan Times indicated that both younger and older interviewees saw no such need either. It may be most telling that one of the victims of the bombing, 91-year-old Sunao Tsuboi, an antinuclear activist in Hiroshima, is openly welcoming Obama’s visit. As quoted by NHK earlier in the week, “I was one of the first people who said Obama should visit Hiroshima,” he told NHK. “Good for him for coming.”
We’d like to know your opinion: Do you think that Obama ought to make some kind of apologetic remarks when he goes to Hiroshima, or is his visit enough in itself? Let us know in the comments below.