Barack Obama on Friday became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the site of the world’s first atomic bomb attack, bringing global attention both to survivors and to his unfulfilled vision of a world without nuclear weapons.
Obama touched down in Hiroshima after completing talks with world leaders at an international summit in Shima, Japan and addressing U.S. and Japanese troops at a nearby Marine Corps station.
The visit presents a diplomatic tightrope for a U.S. president trying to make history without ripping open old wounds. Obama planned to make a short speech and pay tribute to the 140,000 people killed in the bombing seven decades ago. But the White House has stressed he will not apologize for the attack, which is viewed by many in the U.S. as having hastened the end of World War II; others have called it a war crime that targeted civilians.
The president also is expected to renew his push for a world without nuclear weapons, an aspiration for which he received a Nobel Peace Prize early on his presidency but has since seen uneven progress.
The White House has said Obama will offer a simple reflection, acknowledging the devastating toll of war and coupling it with a message that the world can — and must — do better. The president will pay tribute to the 140,000 people who were killed 70 years ago when the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in the final days of World War II.
The president says his visit is a testament to how even the most painful divides can be bridged. He says it shows how former adversaries Japan and the U.S. can become not just partners but the best of friends and strongest of allies.
The president is accompanied on his visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — a demonstration of the friendship that exists between the only nation ever to use an atomic bomb and the only nation ever to have suffered from one.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Obama’s visit to Hiroshima will give a “big boost” to efforts to achieve a nuclear-free world. The prime minister delivered his comments at the conclusion of a summit of world leaders in Shima, Japan. Abe said what happened in Hiroshima should never be repeated.