WASHINGTON – The White House sounded cautious Thursday about the possibility of President Barack Obama visiting Hiroshima or Nagasaki, the Japanese cities attacked with atomic bombs in World War II, during his tenure.
Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told reporters that he does not rule out the possibility of Obama visiting the cities “in the future.” But he suggested the fact that Obama did not visit the cities during any of his past three visits to Japan as U.S. leader is indicative of his administration’s position.
Earnest made the comments answering questions by reporters on the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945 about whether Obama would become the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima or Nagasaki.
“I think the fact that he didn’t go to either Hiroshima or Nagasaki on his three or four previous visits to Japan … does give you an indication of where the president and his team ultimately came down on this (issue),” Earnest said.
But he said he “certainly wouldn’t rule out that kind of possibility into the future.”
“There has been extensive historic discussion and review about the consequences of President (Harry) Truman’s fateful decision that brought the Second World War to an end,” Earnest said.
Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has said he will seek a world free of nuclear weapons. Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state, said in April that Obama was willing to visit the atomic-bombed cities.
Obama’s tenure expires in January 2017 and whether he will visit Hiroshima or Nagasaki on the occasion of the Group of Seven summit to be held in Japan next May will be closely watched.
A majority of Americans think the atomic bombings were justified, according to a poll released in April by the Pew Research Center, a major U.S. research agency.
But the poll highlighted a generation gap over perceptions of the issue, with 70 percent of respondents aged 65 or older seeing the attacks as justified compared with 47 percent for those aged between 18 and 29.