BARACK OBAMA became the first American president to visit Hiroshima Friday, more than 70 years after the city was destroyed by a nuclear bomb attack by the U.S. military.
Speaking at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Obama honored the memory of the 140,000 people killed in the attack and called for “a world without nuclear weapons”.
He said the memory August 6, 1945 “must never fade,” adding that the memory “allows the world to fight complacency and fuels a common moral imagination”.
He also laid a wreath in respect and signed the guestbook, where he wrote:
“We have known the agony of war. Let us now find the courage, together, to spread peace, and pursue a world without nuclear weapons.”
Also present was Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who said Obama’s visit opened a new chapter in reconciliation between the U.S. and Japan, and would give a “big boost” to efforts achieve a nuclear-free world, as what happened in Hiroshima “should never be repeated”.
Afterwards, Obama greeted survivors of the bombing, speaking with them briefly. For many of the survivors, who number more than 183,000, Obama’s visit was hugely symbolic.
The head of one survivors group, Suna Tsuboi, 91, told Japanese broadcasting organization NHK that “the day has finally come”.
“All we want is to see him laying flowers at the peace park and lower his head in silence,” said Tsuboi. “This would be a first step toward abolishing nuclear weapons.”
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Prior to the highly anticipated visit, Obama said he would not apologize for his country’s decision to bomb the city, saying that leaders had to make difficult decisions during times of war.
He said that instead, he would rather focus on creating a world “where nuclear weapons are no longer necessary”, calling for a reduction in nuclear stockpiles.
Obama hoped that the visit would help in strengthening relations with Japan, a former adversary turned ally.
Additional reporting by Associated Press