U.S. president Barak Obama who in 2009 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize partly for making nuclear nonproliferation a centerpiece of his agenda, will become in few days the very first American president to visit Hiroshima.
Survivors of the world’s first atomic bomb crisis, Aug. 6, 1945, welcomed the initiative recalling that thousands of people were killed instantly after the bombing in Hiroshima, with about 140,000 lost later by the end of the year. In Nagasaki, about 27,000 were killed instantly and about 70,000 by the end of the year; 6 days later Japan surrendered.
Consequently, Obama’s visit to Hiroshima caused some debate in the White House, since many Americans see that the bombings saved many lives of U.S. servicemen, while the majority in Japan feel the bombings were unjustified in Ngasaki and Hiroshima. Obama shall make his visit following a meeting of G7 leaders in Tokyo, despite concerns that it would be criticized in the United States if it was seen as an apology.
One survivor who still remembers the struggle, a native Nagaski who was then 13, Terumi Tanaka, said on Thursday an apology for the human suffering would be welcome, and at the same time insisted that a broad apology risked interfering with the critical goal of nuclear disarmament.
Tanaka vividly recalls searching through the ruins between piles of bodies for family members. “We would definitely like an apology to people who lost their lives, those who lost loved ones, parents who lost their children,” Tanaka, who today heads a national organization of bombing survivors, told a news conference.
“The strongest feeling of survivors is that this should not become a barrier to getting rid of nuclear weapons,” the latter added.
Toshiki Fujimori, who was a baby on his mother’s back when the two of them were bowled over by the blast wave from the Hiroshima bomb, said he sensed efforts were being made to dampen talk of an apology in advance of Obama’s visit.
“What I mean is, there has been pressure applied to create a mood in which he can visit,” he said.
“I won’t go into details.” Hiroshima governor Hidehiko Yuzaki said Obama’s visit was stirring a range of emotions in survivors but they were mostly putting hope for nuclear disarmament first. “Their biggest wish is that they don’t want anybody to go through this again,” he added.
“In order to carry this out, they’ll put the issue of an apology to the side for now.”