President Obama will visit Hiroshima when he travels to Japan this month for a summit of key industrialized nations, the White House announced Tuesday.
It will be the first visit to the city by a sitting president since World War II, but the Obama administration said he will not apologize for the decision to destroy that city with an atomic bomb.
“He will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II. Instead, he will offer a forward-looking vision focused on our shared future,” explained Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser.
The question arose because John Kerry recently became the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park. Declaring the experience “gut-wrenching,” Kerry said he would urge Obama to make the trip.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center left, puts his arm around Japan’s foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, after they and fellow G-7 foreign ministers laid wreaths at the cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum in Hiroshima, Japan. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
“It tugs at all of your sensibilities as a human being. It reminds everybody of the extraordinary complexity of choices in war and of what war does to people, to communities, to countries, to the world,” Kerry said after his April 11 visit.
Obama has said since at least November 2009 that he would like to visit Hiroshima and also Nagasaki, the target of the second American nuclear bomb dropped in wartime.
“I certainly would be honored; it would be meaningful for me to visit those two cities in the future,” he said at a press conference with Japan’s then prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama.
Rhodes wrote Tuesday that Obama will visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on May 27.
This post was originally published on May 2. It was updated Tuesday after the White House announced Obama’s plans.
(Cover tile photo: Kimimasa Mayama/Reuters)