Obama Says He Would Be ‘Honored’ to Visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki
November 13, 2009 - 12:02 PMVisiting the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – targets of a U.S. atomic bomb attack that hastened the end of World War II – would be "meaningful," President Obama said Friday in Tokyo.<br />
“I certainly would be honored – it would be meaningful for me to visit those two cities in the future. I don’t have immediate travel plans, but it’s something that would be meaningful to me.”
In an interview with a Japanese network earlier this week, Obama said something similar: "The memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are etched in the minds of the world, and I would be honored to have the opportunity to visit those cities at some point during my presidency," he said on Tuesday.
Obama, at a joint press conference on Friday with the Japanese prime minister, also lauded the “distant goal” of achieving a world without nuclear weapons.
Such an achievement will take “time” and “specific steps” to realize, he said. “But in seeking this goal, we can stop the spread of nuclear weapons, we can secure loose nuclear weapons, we can strengthen the nonproliferation regimes.”
Obama conceded that the United States is willing to reduce, but not eliminate, its own nuclear stockpile: “As long as nuclear weapons exist, we will retain our deterrent for our people and our allies, but we are already taking steps to bring down our nuclear stockpiles in cooperation with the Russian government, and we want to continue to work on the nonproliferation issues now.”
The president noted that Japan has a “unique perspective” on nuclear weapons because of the devastation visited on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “And that, I’m sure, helps to motivate the prime minister’s deep interest in this issue,” he said.
As the Associated Press reported, the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki went to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo late last month to invite Obama to visit their cities before the United Nations reviews the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty next May.
In addition, Japanese newspapers have published editorials, community groups have circulated petitions and students have written letters urging Obama to visit, especially now that he’s won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Former President Jimmy Carter visited the atomic bomb memorial in Hiroshima in 1984, after he was out of office. The highest-ranking American to visit while in office is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who went last year. The new U.S. Ambassador to Japan, John Roos, visited Hiroshima in October, shortly after taking up his new post in Tokyo.
No sitting Japanese prime minister has ever visited Pearl Harbor. The surprise attack on that U.S. base in Hawaii brought the United States into World War II.
The U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, killing an estimated 140,000 people, and a second one on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, killing 80,000. Six days later, Japan surrendered, ending World War II.
(The Associated Press contributed some of the information used in this report.)