MAJURO – Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak said he is ready to visit Hiroshima in February ahead of the 60th anniversary in March of the fatal U.S. hydrogen bomb test over Bikini Atoll that exposed nearly two dozen Japanese fishermen to radiation.
In an interview in Majuro on Tuesday, Loeak stressed the close link between Japan and the Marshall Islands, saying the two share the “effects of nuclear weapons,” a reference to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945.
Some residents of the islands were exposed to fallout from the H-bomb test, code-named Bravo, which was conducted on March 1, 1954, on Bikini Atoll. The Japanese tuna trawler Fukuryu Maru No. 5 was also exposed to the fallout.
Loeak is likely to visit Japan from Feb. 12 to 16 and plans to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Japanese and Marshall Islands sources said, adding he is also expected to hold talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The two leaders are likely to discuss strengthening bilateral ties ahead of the summit of the Pacific Islands Forum countries and Japan, to be held in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, next year.
The president said he plans to seek continued economic assistance from Japan during his meeting with Abe.
From 1946 to 1958, the United States carried out 67 nuclear tests in the northern part of the Marshall Islands.
The blast from the Bravo test was around 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. Some residents still live far from their homes to avoid the latent radiation. Many were forced to relocate to other islands.
The Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test Site was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2010 because it symbolized “the dawn of the nuclear age” and “the race to develop weapons of mass destruction and a geopolitical balance based on terror.”
Twenty-three crew members of the Fukuryu Maru No. 5 were exposed to the fallout from the massive 1954 test. One of them, Aikichi Kuboyama, 40, died six months afterward, inspiring an anti-nuclear weapons movement in Japan.