President Obama will visit Hiroshima later this month, while he’s in Japan for the G-7 summit, the White House has confirmed.
The trip will mark the first visit by a U.S. president to the site since American forces dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.
Today Hiroshima is the site of a park and museum dedicated to memorializing the victims of the attack and promoting peace and nuclear disarmament. The president’s visit will “highlight his continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” the White House said in a statement.
As NPR’s Greg Myre noted last month, a presidential visit to Hiroshima “would likely be well-received in Japan, though his visit would almost certainly bring criticism from conservative quarters in the U.S.”
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Obama was criticized by Republican candidate Mitt Romney for going on an “apology tour,” traveling the world apologizing for American foreign policy. The claim was denounced as untrue by multiple fact-checkers, but the specter of that phrase may return during a presidential visit to the city destroyed by an American atom bomb.
Greg continues: “Some Japanese activists have demanded an American apology. In the U.S., the bombings have generally been seen as necessary to end the war, and saving U.S. lives that would have been lost in a land invasion of Japan.”
Last month, Secretary of State John Kerry became the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the city since the attacks.
His visit fueled speculation that the president would make the trip himself.
Kerry called the Peace Memorial Museum “a stunning display … a gut-wrenching display.”
The secretary of state did not apologize for the attack.