National / Social Issues

Hibakusha group says Obama Hiroshima speech ‘avoided responsibility’

Kyodo

A group of atomic bomb survivors on Thursday criticized U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent speech in Hiroshima, saying it “avoided U.S. responsibility” for the atomic bombing of the city and did not address problems toward nuclear abolition.

The Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations adopted a resolution in Tokyo that said Obama’s speech delivered at Peace Memorial Park on May 27 included expressions meant to avoid U.S. responsibility by referring to the atomic bombing “as if it was a natural phenomenon.”

Obama, who became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the city devastated by the U.S. atomic bombing in World War II, said at the beginning of his 17-minute speech, “Seventy-one years ago, on a bright cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed.”

The resolution adopted at the end of the two-day annual general meeting in Tokyo said the speech included “some words that struck people’s hearts.”

But Terumi Tanaka, secretary-general of the group known as Nihon Hidankyo, said, “Death did not fall (from the sky). Death was created” by the atomic bombing. Tanaka was at the ceremony in Hiroshima in which Obama made the speech.

“That (part) is absolutely unacceptable for hibakusha,” he said at a news conference after the meeting.

The resolution also urged the United States to make efforts to create a world without nuclear weapons. “We demand more strongly to the United States to take responsibility and actions toward the elimination of nuclear weapons as a sign of regret for the dropping (of atomic bombs),” it said.

The 84-year-old Tanaka, who survived the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, said his organization was also planning to ask Obama to visit Hiroshima again as the U.S. president spent only a short time talking to survivors after the ceremony and seeing exhibits at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum during his trip.

The United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and a second on Nagasaki three days later. Around 210,000 people — mostly civilians — are estimated to have died as a result of the attacks by the end of 1945. Japan surrendered on Aug. 15 that year, bringing an end to World War II.