WASHINGTON – The United States told Japan that it had been reluctant about the possibility of Hiroshima hosting next year’s Group of Seven summit out of concern about reactions by Americans, a U.S. government official said Sunday.
Some in Japan hope U.S. President Barack Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who seeks a world free of nuclear weapons, will visit Hiroshima or Nagasaki when he visits Japan for the 2016 G-7 summit.
The story revealed by a U.S. official indicated, however, that it is harder than generally thought in Japan for such a trip to take place.
Hiroshima, which along with Nagasaki was destroyed by a U.S. atomic bomb near the end of World War II, was among eight candidate cities to host the annual G-7 summit, to be held on May 26-27.
The U.S. side had concerns Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government was seeking to possibly pick the city as the summit host venue, according to the official, who wished to remain anonymous.
The official said Washington warned it would be “perceived pretty badly” in the United States if an American president visits an atomic-bombed city under a plan dictated by Japan.
Washington told Tokyo through multiple diplomatic channels that it would be desirable for an American president to visit on his or her own initiative, the official said.
Abe announced in June that he had chosen Shima, in Mie Prefecture, as the venue of the G-7 summit.
Hiroshima will host G-7 foreign ministerial talks in April.
Hiroshima was on the shortlist with Sendai and Shima in the selection of the G-7 summit host, according to a Japanese government source.
The mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as some atomic bomb survivors, have asked Obama to visit the cities to see what happened to the communities after the U.S. nuclear attacks. Casualties by the end of 1945 were estimated at 140,000 in Hiroshima and 74,000 in Nagasaki.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in August that he does not rule out the possibility of Obama’s visiting Hiroshima during his tenure but suggested the likelihood is slim.