US President Obama to make historic visit to Hiroshima on May 27

President Barack Obama will become the first sitting US president to visit the Japanese city of Hiroshima on which the US dropped an atomic bomb during World War II, the White House said Tuesday.

On May 27 during a broader trip to Japan, Obama will visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which is dedicated to the tens of thousands killed in the atomic bombing during the final days of the war.

While the White House said his visit to the western Japanese city will "highlight his continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," it made clear last week that Obama will not offer an apology.

In Hiroshima, Obama "will share his reflections on the significance of the site and the events that occurred there," US Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said in a blog post.

But "he will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II. Instead, he will offer a forward-looking vision focused on our shared future," Rhodes added.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it was up to historians to weigh the use of the nuclear bomb and noted the US has a "special responsibility" as the only nation to have used nuclear weapons to lead the world in the effort to eliminate them.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon "very much welcomes" Obama's decision to visit Hiroshima, said Stephane Dujarric, Ban's spokesman.

"We would hope that the visit is a global message on the need for nuclear disarmament," Dujarric said.

The nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima killed tens of thousands of Japanese within seconds on August 6, 1945, and by the end of the year 140,000 people in total had died from injuries related to the blast.

On August 9, another atomic bomb was dropped on the port city of Nagasaki. Around 40,000 people died on the first day, with 74,000 dead by the end of the year.

"This visit will offer an opportunity to honour the memory of all innocents who were lost during the war," Rhodes said.

The White House did not say whether Obama would meet with any survivors of the attack.

Earnest also stressed the visit was not meant to downplay the efforts of US veterans who fought in World War II.

On his tenth trip to Asia from May 21-28, Obama will travel to Hiroshima with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, following a trip to Vietnam and his final G7 summit in Ise-Shima, Japan.

The White House has considered trips to Hiroshima during Obama's past trips to Japan, but decided to make the stop during his last such visit.

Abe said Tuesday that he welcomed the visit "from the bottom of my heart," the Kyodo news agency reported.

"Expressing a determination to realize a world without nuclear weapons from an atom-bombed city will be significant for the next generation," Abe said.

Rhodes said that the visit "will also symbolize how far the United States and Japan have come in building a deep and abiding alliance based on mutual interests, shared values, and an enduring spirit of friendship between our peoples."

Today, the US and Japan cooperate on every major global issue, a relationship that was "was inconceivable at the conclusion of World War II."

In April, US Secretary of State John Kerry became the highest-ranking US official ever to visit the city seven decades after the bomb, when he laid a wreath at the Hiroshima memorial, on the sidelines of a G7 foreign ministers' meeting.

Former president Jimmy Carter visited Hiroshima in 1984 after leaving office and president Richard Nixon visited before taking office.

Last update: Tue, 28/06/2016 - 17:25
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