With U.S. President Barack Obama expected to visit Hiroshima after the Group of Seven (G-7) summit in Mie Prefecture next month, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Japan has informed the United States that it is not seeking an apology for the atomic bombings that took place during the war.
“We’re not asking for an apology,” Kishida said in a speech in Hokkaido on Saturday.
Senior U.S. officials said Friday that Obama is likely to become the first sitting American president to make a visit to Hiroshima.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park earlier this month along with other G-7 foreign ministers, becoming the first U.S. secretary of state to do so while in office.
Kishida said that before Kerry’s visit, Japan informed the U.S. government of its position, underscoring that “a tragedy for mankind should not be repeated” and that “we hope (Kerry) would visit Hiroshima to confirm our desire to create a world without nuclear weapons.”
Obama’s plan to visit Hiroshima is regarded as a signal that the outgoing president is renewing his campaign to seek a world free of nuclear weapons.
The government has expressed its position that it is more important to continue with steady efforts toward nuclear disarmament than to demand an apology from its former enemy.
The bombings of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and of Nagasaki three days later, are widely viewed in the U.S. as having prevented a bloodier land battle and hastening the end of the war. A trip by the president could stir controversy at home and trigger debate among the candidates seeking to succeed him.
“It is high time that a sitting U.S. president paid respects at Hiroshima to strengthen ties, boost U.S. moral authority on history issues and to give much-needed momentum to Obama’s nuclear agenda,” said Jeff Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University in Japan. “It seems quite a long time ago that he won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for a speech in Prague about eradicating nuclear arsenals.”
About 80,000 people were killed instantly when the B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped the first A-bomb on Hiroshima. Tens of thousands would later die from injuries and exposure to radiation. Many survivors are still receiving government support.
The subsequent strike on Nagasaki killed an estimated 40,000 people and led to an unprecedented radio address six days later by Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, in which he announced Japan’s unconditional surrender, citing the devastating power of a “new and most cruel bomb.”
Anti-nuclear and pacifist sentiment are strong in Japan, where passions ran high last year as Abe succeeded in reinterpreting, rather than amending, the Constitution and enacted divisive laws that expand the types of overseas roles playable by the Self-Defense Forces.
Japan, now protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella, adopted three so-called non-nuclear principles in 1967 that state Japan shall not possess, produce or permit the introduction of nuclear weapons into its territory.