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Barack Obama to visit Hiroshima on Asia trip


US President Barack Obama. AFP PHOTO / POOL - David Fernandez / AFP / POOL / DAVID FERNANDEZ

US President Barack Obama. AFP PHOTO / POOL – David Fernandez / AFP / POOL / DAVID FERNANDEZ

Barack Obama has announced he will visit Hiroshima, Japan, becoming the first sitting president to visit the site where the US dropped an atomic bomb in 1945, killing an estimated 140,000 people the final days of the second world war.

In a statement the White House confirmed the visit, saying Obama’s visit will “highlight his continued commitment to pursuing peace and security in a world without nuclear weapons”. Obama will be joined with Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who is hosting the G7 summit in Ise-Shima later this month.

Earlier this month White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, said the president does not believe the US should apologize for its use of atom bombs on Japan in 1945, a point reiterated by national security adviser Ben Rhodes Yesterday.

Obama “will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II”, Rhodes wrote in a post on Medium. “This visit will offer an opportunity to honor the memory of all innocents who were lost during the war.”

Rhodes added that the visit aids the reconciliation between the US and Japan, and the nations’ mutual commitment to reducing the “the role of nuclear weapons in our security and in the policies of other global powers”.

In April, secretary of state, John Kerry, visited the site, where he made an emotional speech. “It tugs at all of your sensibilities as a human being. It reminds everybody of the extraordinary complexity of choices in war and of what war does to people, to communities, to countries, to the world,” he said.

Obama will visit the city, where 140,000 people died after the bombing on the morning of 6 August 1945, with the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, at the end of the two-day summit in Ise-Shima.

Kerry laid a wreath at the cenotaph and described his tour of the nearby peace memorial museum as “gut-wrenching”. His visit was well received in Japan, where many atom bomb survivors have dropped demands for an apology, hoping instead that a presidential visit will spur future US administrations to push harder for nuclear disarmament.

Obama said during a visit to Japan in late 2009 that he would be “honoured” to go to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which was bombed on 9 August 1945, killing 80,000 people.

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