A senior official of Japan’s Foreign Ministry told the U.S. ambassador in Tokyo it would be premature for U.S. President Barack Obama to visit the atomic-bombed city of Hiroshima during his November 2009 trip to Japan, according to a secret U.S. cable recently released by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.
The cable indicates the Japanese government was then effectively discouraging Obama from visiting Hiroshima despite growing expectations over it following his call for a world free from nuclear weapons in a speech in Prague in April 2009.
The cable, dated Sept. 3, 2009, and sent to U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton, reported Japan’s then Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka telling Ambassador John Roos on Aug. 28 that antinuclear groups would speculate over whether the president would visit Hiroshima in light of his Prague speech on nuclear nonproliferation.
“He underscored, however, that both governments must temper the public’s expectations on such issues, as the idea of President Obama visiting Hiroshima to apologize for the atomic bombing during World War II is a ‘non-starter’,” said the cable.
It also quoted Yabunaka as saying, “While a simple visit to Hiroshima without fanfare is sufficiently symbolic to convey the right message, it is premature to include such program in the November visit.”
“Yabunaka recommended that the visit in November center mostly in Tokyo,” it said.
Yabunaka, now adviser to the Foreign Ministry, said Monday he would not comment on or confirm any document that was released in an unfair manner.
At a news conference during his visit to Japan in November 2009, Obama said he would be honored and it would be significant for him to visit Hiroshima and the other atomic-bombed city of Nagasaki in the future.