Kerry visits Hiroshima: Should Obama go too?

US Secretary of State visited Hiroshima, Japan, Monday. If Obama visits the site in May, it has the potential to be conciliatory but also controversial.

(Shingo Nishizume/Kyodo News via AP)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center, walks past A-Bomb Dome after visiting the site in Hiroshima, western Japan Monday, April 11, 2016. Kerry visited the revered memorial to Hiroshima's atomic bombing on Monday, delivering a message of peace and hope for a nuclear-free world seven decades after United States used the weapon for the first time in history and killed 140,000 Japanese.

John Kerry became the first US Secretary of State to visit the Hiroshima site where America dropped a nuclear bomb, and reminded the world of President Obama’s potentially controversial, desire to do the same.  

Secretary Kerry joined other G-7 leaders at the site for the annual commemoration of Aug. 6, 1945 when an American aircraft dropped the A-bomb that killed 140,000 Japanese and razed Hiroshima. While Kerry is the highest ranking executive branch official to visit, no US president has ever visited Hiroshima because of US political sensitivities. Polls have shown that a majority of Americans see the bombings as justified to end the war and save US lives. But the vast majority of Japanese believe it was not justified.

Kerry, who did not make a public speech, but described his tour of various sites and museums connected with the bombing as “gut-wrenching,” and said it was a reminder of the need to pursue a world free of nuclear weapons.

"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 a guest book.

Asked later if his comments meant Mr. Obama should come, Kerry said: "Everyone means everyone. So I hope one day the president of the United States will be among the everyone who is able to come here. Whether or not he can come as president, I don’t know," Reuters reported.

Obama first raised the possibility of a visit to Hiroshima during a speech in Prague in April 2009 during which he called for a world free of nuclear weapons and afterward said he would be honored to visit Hiroshima, along with Nagasaki, the second city where US forces dropped a nuclear bomb during World War II. The Japanese surrendered shortly after the second attack putting an end to the war, but leaving many Americans and Japanese with differing views of the events.

Obama hasn't made a decision about visiting Hiroshima and its memorial when he attends a Group of Seven meeting of leaders in central Japan in late May, reports the Associated Press. 

The tone of the event Monday was reconciliatory with both Japanese officials and survivors avoiding the demand for an apology and Kerry not offering one.

"While we will revisit the past and honor those who perished, this trip is not about the past," he told Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who is from Hiroshima. "It's about the present and the future particularly, and the strength of the relationship that we have built, the friendship that we share, the strength of our alliance and the strong reminder of the imperative we all have to work for peace for peoples everywhere," AP reported.

"I don't think it is something absolutely necessary when we think of the future of the world and peace for our next generation," Masahiro Arimai, a 71-year-old Hiroshima restaurant owner, told AP in reference to an apology.

Yoshifumi Sasaki, a 68-year-old, longtime resident, agreed: "We all want understanding."

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