US President Barack Obama says he will not apologize to Japan over the 1945 US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, emphasizing that improving mutual ties will instead be the focus of his upcoming trip to the country.
This Friday, Obama will become the first sitting US president to ever tour the site of the world’s first nuclear bombing that killed more than 140,000 people in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
The attack was followed by another US atomic bombing on the port city of Nagasaki three days later, killing about 73,000 people.
When on Sunday, Japanese national broadcaster NHK asked Obama if an apology would be included in remarks he plans to make in Hiroshima, he said, “No, because I think that it’s important to recognize that in the midst of war, leaders make all kinds of decisions.”
“But I know, as somebody who has now sat in this position for the last seven and half years, that every leader makes very difficult decisions, particularly during wartime,” he added.
The US president, who was awarded the 2009 Noble Peace Prize partly for his stance on nuclear non-proliferation, said the two allies needed to concentrate on their current relationship.
“I think it is also a happy story about how former adversaries came together to become one of the closest partnerships and closest allies in the world,” Obama said.
Accompanying Obama during his Hiroshima tour will be Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose administration asserts that future generations should not have to apologize for the actions of their forebears.
The survivors, however, have a different opinion, with a Tokyo-based nationwide group saying that many of them still want an apology, but have kept silent out of fear that it would be counterproductive.
Toshiki Fujimori, a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing who nearly died in the attack as a baby, said it was awkward to see government officials say they are not seeking an apology.
“I suspect there was a pressure (not to seek an apology) to create an atmosphere that would make it easier for Obama to visit Hiroshima,” Fujimori said. “But many of the survivors don’t think they can do without an apology at all.”
The survivors want Obama to know that their suffering is not limited to immediate damage and physical scars as many of them have also suffered discrimination at work, in marriage and in other areas of their lives, he added.