WASHINGTON (Kyodo) U.S. Ambassador John Roos will likely attend the annual Aug. 6 ceremony in Hiroshima to commemorate the 1945 atomic bombing, becoming the first U.S. government representative to be sent to the event, sources close to bilateral relations said Tuesday.
The U.S. is making final arrangements for his attendance, the sources said. President Barack Obama’s desire to push for a world without nuclear weapons is believed to be behind the move.
Roos visited Hiroshima last October and toured Peace Memorial Park and the A-Bomb Dome.
The envoy is considering paying a floral tribute at the ceremony to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the A-bombing, the sources said.
Roos is not planning to visit Nagasaki, where a similar annual ceremony will be held Aug. 9 to commemorate the A-bomb attack there, the sources said.
The city of Hiroshima has asked nuclear weapons states to send representatives to the annual ceremony since 1988.
Diplomatic sources in Tokyo said Britain is also considering sending a representative to the event.
Expectations are rising that Obama may visit Hiroshima when he travels to Japan in November to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Yokohama.
Obama sounded positive about visiting the city when he met with Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba at the White House in January, and was quoted by Akiba as telling him, “I would like to come.”
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon will also attend and give a speech at the memorial service in Hiroshima, making him the first U.N. leader to do so.
In Hiroshima, a leading hibakusha welcomed the reports that a U.S. official will attend the memorial but also urged the U.S. to offer an apology.
“It’s a very welcome move,” said Kazushi Kaneko, director general of the Hiroshima Council of A-Bomb Sufferers Organizations. “The momentum is growing for the elimination of nuclear weapons.”
But “the United States should first recognize the atomic bombing as a crime from a humanitarian point of view and offer an apology,” the 84-year-old hibakusha said. “I want the U.S. representative to feel the realities of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima and correct the U.S. perception that the bombing was the right choice.”
“The atomic bombing suddenly destroyed normal life,” said auteur Masaaki Tanabe, 72, who has lived close to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and has produced computer graphic scenes of Hiroshima before the bombing.
“The realization of the great loss in Hiroshima should lead to the elimination of nuclear weapons,” he said.