The first sitting US president to visit a city devastated by a US atomic bomb embraced a survivor and remembered the innocent who died. The US leader offered not apologies but called for a “moral awakening”. He also praised “one of the greatest alliances in the world between the United States and Japan.”
Hiroshima (AsiaNews) – For Japanese media, the iconic image of US President Barack Obama and Hiroshima atomic bomb survivor Shigeaki Mori embracing marks the last chapter in a century that has finally comes to a close.
Obama is the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima. Like Nagasaki, the city was devastated by an atomic bomb that changed the course of the Second World War and world history.
At the Hiroshima memorial, the US leader was welcomed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. After he laid a wreath at the peace memorial to the victims, he spoke.
The US president did not express any apology, which no one expected. In the United States, the atomic slaughter was and is still seen as a necessary step to end a conflict and save millions of lives.
“Seventy-one years ago, death fell from the sky and the world was changed,” Obama said. Today, “We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, thousands of Koreans, a dozen Americans held prisoner”. Today, “We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see. We listen to silent cry.”
The memory of that day, 6 August, will never fade away. It will allow people to go forward, to imagine the future, and to change. “That is the future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare, but as the start of our own moral awakening.”
The US leader wants a world without nuclear weapons. “The world was forever changed here. But today the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting and then extending to every child. That is a future we can choose.”
After the speech came the most important moment for most people in Japan, namely the meeting between the US president and survivors, Hibakusha in Japanese. Out of respect for them, the event was held in private without TV coverage.
Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, ended his trip to Japan, where he attended the G7 summit, at US Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, some 40 kilometres from Hiroshima.
Here, he reaffirmed “one of the greatest alliances in the world between the United States and Japan.” This, he noted, is “a testament to how even the most painful divides can be bridged; how our two nations – former adversaries – cannot just become partners, but become the best of friends and the strongest of allies.”