Before he was elected to the presidency, Sen. Barrack Obama vowed to work toward a world free of nuclear weapons. (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)
Before he was elected to the presidency, Sen. Barrack Obama vowed to work toward a world free of nuclear weapons. (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

WASHINGTON — The White House confirmed on May 10 that President Obama will visit Hiroshima during his trip to Vietnam and Japan from May 21 to 28.

“In Japan, the president will participate in his final G-7 Summit in Ise-Shima,” said Press Secretary Josh Earnest. “This gathering will enable the G-7 leaders to advance common interests across the full range of economic and security priorities and to address pressing global challenges.

“The president and Prime Minister Abe will meet bilaterally to further advance the U.S.-Japan alliance, including our cooperation on economic and security issues as well as a host of global challenges.

“Finally, the president will make an historic visit to Hiroshima with Prime Minister Abe to highlight his continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

Administration officials have emphasized that the visit does not constitute an apology for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945 and Nagasaki three days later — to date, the only times that nuclear weapons have been used in war. Japanese officials have not sought an apology.

Obama will be the first sitting U.S. president to go to Hiroshima. Jimmy Carter visited as a former president. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Ambassadors to Japan Caroline Kennedy and John Roos, and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have visited in recent years.

Japanese American members of Congress expressed support for Obama’s decision.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii): “I commend President Obama’s decision to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, which serves as a poignant reminder of the devastating cost of nuclear warfare, especially on civilian communities.

“When I last visited the memorial, students from a Hawaii elementary school asked me to present 1,000 paper cranes they folded as a tribute to Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who was stricken with cancer caused by the nuclear blast and who is depicted at the Children’s Peace Monument. The students had just read her story in class and were very moved by it.

“I know the president, too, will be moved by his visit to the Peace Memorial, a reminder to the world of the dangers of nuclear proliferation.”

Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose): “This visit symbolizes the commitment of peace, healing and a nuclear-free world. President Obama’s visit strikes me to the core. My late wife, Jeanne, was two years old when she survived the atom bombing of Hiroshima. After the war, she and her family remained during the city’s reconstruction. With her family, she immigrated to the United States at the age of 11.

“Nuclear weapons do not distinguish children from soldiers. They do not attack enemies while sparing the innocent. No family, no child, should ever face a nuclear attack again.

“Peace and security in a nuclear-free world is possible. I hope the president’s visit will remind us of the dangers of nuclear proliferation in our world today, and demonstrate the urgency of removing as many of these weapons from that world as possible.

“I applaud the president’s decision to visit Hiroshima, his steadfast commitment for non-proliferation and the ever-growing friendship and partnership between the U.S. and Japan.”

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside): “After urging President Obama last month to visit Hiroshima, I was gratified to learn that on May 27 he will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit the site where America dropped the atomic bomb.

“The bombing of Hiroshima is perhaps the world’s most poignant reminder of the complexities of war and the unequaled destruction caused by nuclear weapons. A tour of Hiroshima is not an apology on America’s behalf; it is a message to the world that America appreciates its role in maintaining global stability and controlling the spread of nuclear weapons.

“I applaud President Obama for this decision and hope it will cause other foreign leaders to follow in his footsteps.”

Rep. Mark Takai (D-Hawaii): “The U.S.-Japan alliance could not be stronger at this time, and I applaud President Obama’s decision to visit Hiroshima later this month as he goes to Asia. Even as we look back on tragedy, we must also recognize that over the years, our nation has moved through this tragedy to build a strong alliance with Japan, based on preserving peace and stability in the region since the end of the war.

“It is my hope that both President Obama and Prime Minister Abe will celebrate this partnership at the 75th anniversary commemoration [of the Pearl Harbor attack] in Hawaii later this year, while also continuing to work towards a world free of nuclear weapons.

“It is my hope that a group of world leaders and my colleagues here in Congress will all take the time to observe such a significant date in history. In doing so, we can remember the brave men and women that helped change the course of history 75 years ago.”

Takai, a member of the State of Hawaii’s 75th Commemoration Committee, authored a letter to Obama asking for his attendance at the celebration, and has been in regular contact with the Embassy of Japan to encourage Abe’s attendance. In March, Takai introduced a bipartisan resolution to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, joined by Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.), and has also sent letters to House leadership asking that members who wish to attend the Dec. 7 ceremony be accommodated.

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