US Secretary of State John Kerry paid tribute on Monday to victims of the US atomic bomb that was dropped on the western Japanese city of Hiroshima during World War II.
Kerry, the highest-ranking US official ever to visit the city seven decades after the bomb killed thousands, laid a wreath at the memorial on the sidelines of the Group of Seven (G7) foreign ministers' two-day meeting.
"My visit to Hiroshima has very special meaning about the strength of the relationship and the journey that we have traveled together since the difficult times of the war," Kerry told Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at a news conference.
The top US diplomat also viewed exhibits at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum along with his counterparts from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the European Union.
"Everyone in the world should see and feel the power of this memorial. It is a stark, harsh, compelling reminder not only of our obligation to end the threat of nuclear weapons, but to rededicate all our effort to avoid war itself," Kerry wrote in the museum's guestbook.
"War must be the last resort – never the first choice," he added.
It was also the first time that top diplomats of Britain and France, two other nuclear powers, visited the memorial site, which is located near ground zero.
"This was the first visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park by all the G7 foreign ministers, and I believe we made a historical step forward which will revive a momentum toward realizing a world free of nuclear weapons," said Kishida, a Hiroshima native.
The foreign ministers' visit to the memorial was "meaningful, though it was disappointing that they did not have an opportunity to hear stories of survivors" of the atomic attack, said Keisaburo Toyonaga, who survived the blast.
The atomic bombing killed tens of thousands of residents within seconds on August 6, 1945, and by the end of the year some 140,000 in total had died from injuries related to the blast.
Three days later, on August 9, another atom bomb was detonated over the port city of Nagasaki. Around 40,000 people died on the first day, with 74,000 dead by the end of the year.
Many Americans believe the atomic attacks were necessary to end the war and save the lives of US troops.
"I hope President [Barack] Obama will follow the secretary's footstep and visit the memorial site" in May, Toyonaga said, when he comes to Japan to attend a G7 summit meeting in the coastal city of Shima.
The Washington Post reported Saturday that the White House has begun exploring the possibility of the president visiting Hiroshima.