In April, I wrote a commentary encouraging President Obama to visit Hiroshima.
As reported in The New York Times three days ago (May 10), “President Obama will become the first sitting American president to visit Hiroshima, Japan…” since the United States dropped an atomic bomb, ending World War II.
In a blog post, White House Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes wrote, “On May 27, the President will visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, a site at the center of the city dedicated to the victims of the atomic bombing, where he will share his reflections on the significance of the site and the events that occurred there. 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.”
However, this is not part of an “apology tour,” as some Washington pundits have suggested.
As Rhodes makes clear, “…the United States will be eternally proud of our civilian leaders and the men and women of our armed forces who served in World War II for their sacrifice at a time of maximum peril to our country and our world. Their cause was just, and we owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude, which the President will again commemorate shortly after the visit on Memorial Day. This visit will offer an opportunity to honor the memory of all innocents who were lost during the war.
“The President’s time in Hiroshima also will reaffirm America’s longstanding commitment — and the President’s personal commitment — to pursue the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.
“That commitment has guided our efforts to promote non-proliferation and nuclear security — a theme at the heart of four Nuclear Security Summits that the President hosted — and to take concrete steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our security and in the policies of other global powers.”
“The mayor of Hiroshima, Kazumi Matsui,” The Times writes, “welcomed the visit but said in a statement he wanted Mr. Obama to outline “concrete steps” to further the cause of disarmament. Last year, on the 70th anniversary of the bombing, Mr. Matsui accused “selfish” nuclear powers, including the United States, of standing in the way of that cause by insisting on maintaining their arsenals.
“Sunao Tsuboi, 91, a leading antinuclear activist in Hiroshima, who was burned by the bomb blast on Aug. 6, 1945, also welcomed Mr. Obama’s visit, which he said he hoped would ‘project a broad antinuclear message.’
“ ‘I was one of the first people who said Obama should visit Hiroshima,’ he told NHK, Japan’s national public broadcaster. ‘Good for him for coming.’ ”