07/30/2010, 00.00
JAPAN

For the first time a US official to attend Hiroshima commemoration

Pino Cazzaniga
The Aug. 6 ceremony marks the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombing that killed 140 thousand people. John Ross, U.S. ambassador to Japan, representatives of France and the UK will be present for the first time. Historic first participation for the UN secretary general. Memorial erected in Potsdam of the atomic bombings.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) - For the first time John Ross, U.S. ambassador to Japan, will represent the U.S. government in Hiroshima during a ceremony marking the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city, to be held August 6. The news was announced July 28 by Japanese government sources. Almost simultaneously, the governments of France and the United Kingdom (England) announced they will also send members of their respective embassies. The decision is considered a historic turning point because it makes the significance of the ceremony truly universal and helps efforts towards global denuclearization.

In 1998 the government of Hiroshima formally invited all nations that possess nuclear weapons to send a representative to the Aug. 6 ceremony. India, Pakistan, Russia and China responded to the call, the United States, France and England chose to ignore it. Moreover, in these 65 years, no American president has ever visited Hiroshima. Jimmy Carter did, but after his term as head of state had ended.

Another first for this year's celebration is the unprecedented participation of the Secretary General of the United Nations: the presence of Ban Ki-moon will have particular weight because he is expected to deliver a much anticipated speech.

In the atomic bombing of Hiroshima 140 thousand people were killed.

 

The courage of the American President Barack Obama

 

The turnaround is due to Barak Obama. In April 2009, in Prague, the U.S. president called for a nuclear-free world, in a speech welcomed by the public around the globe. But words must be substantiated by facts. Interviewed in November, Obama said that a visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki would be "justified", but added that he had no plans to go there "in the immediate future".

Sending Ambassador Ross to Hiroshima is a first step. Perhapsit falls a bit short, because the ambassador is not going to Nagasaki, the target of the second atomic bomb that killed 74 thousand citizens in a matter of seconds on August 9, 1945.

The hibakusha (victims of atomic radiation) of the two cities hope that Obama will visit them on the sidelines of the APEC summit (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation), to be held in November in Yokohama.

Mr Kota Kiya, a member of the group "Victims of the atomic bomb," said that in the prefecture of Hiroshima: "We give great weight to the participation of Ambassador Ross, because it shows that the U.S. government has changed its attitude towards Hiroshima and Nagasaki. " He added: "Given the public opinion in the United States, it is extremely difficult for that government to apologize for using the atomic bombs on Japan."

 

The citizens of the world on Hiroshima’s side

But the sympathy that the two cities, victims of atomic bombings, fail to find across the Pacific, has been offered then by Europeans in the Berlin district of Potsdam, where 65 years ago the leaders of the Allied Powers demanded the unconditional surrender of Japan, or else its "immediate and total destruction."

On July 25, the same day the declaration was made 65 years ago, in Potsdam’s Hiroshima - Platz park a monument to victims of the two atomic bombings was inaugurated.

The inscription on the cenotaph - written in German, English and Japanese - states: "The destructive power of these weapons has caused terrible suffering and death to hundreds of thousands of people. In the hope of a world free of nuclear weapons".

The monument was built at the initiative of citizens of German and Japanese on the lawn of Hiroshima-Platz, so-named in 2005. It is located opposite the villa where Harry S Truman was staying during the Potsdam Conference of 1945. From here the American president gave the green light to the atomic bombings of Japan, informing the Allies that they would take place after August 3. Punctually Hiroshima was destroyed on August 6. Three days later the same fate befell Nagasaki.

At Potsdam, after 65 years, ordinary citizens from Europe and Japan have expressed sympathy and prayers for the victims with the monument in Hiroshima-Platz.

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