President Obama will become the first sitting American president to visit Hiroshima, Japan, the White House announced on Tuesday, making a fraught stop this month at the site where the United States used an atomic bomb at the end of World War II.
The visit, hotly debated within the White House for months as the president planned his coming trip to Vietnam and Japan, carries weighty symbolism for Mr. Obama, who is loath to be seen as apologizing for that chapter in American history.
“He will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II,” Benjamin J. Rhodes, his deputy national security adviser for strategic communication, said in a blog post on Medium. “Instead, he will offer a forward-looking vision focused on our shared future.”
“In making this visit, the president will shine a spotlight on the tremendous and devastating human toll of war,” Mr. Rhodes added in the blog post.
Mr. Obama’s critics have often accused him of making an “apology tour” during the first year of his presidency, pointing to his travels to the Middle East and Europe during that period, when he gave a series of speeches acknowledging past misdeeds by the United States and seeking to rebuild ties frayed at the end of the Bush administration.
But the president’s advisers say a trip to Hiroshima is in keeping with his emphasis on reducing the spread of nuclear weapons, including through a deal completed last year to lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for new restrictions on Tehran’s ability to develop a nuclear bomb.
“The president’s time in Hiroshima also will reaffirm America’s longstanding commitment — and the president’s personal commitment — to pursue the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” Mr. Rhodes wrote.
SOURCE: Julie Hirschfeld Davis
The New York Times
Follow Julie Hirschfeld Davis on Twitter @juliehdavis.