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Barack Obama visits Hiroshima, becomes first sitting US President to be at site of world’s first atomic bombing

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Fri May 27 2016, 5:52 pm
  • Barack Obama, US President, Hiroshima

    Barack Obama has become the first incumbent US president to visit Hiroshima, site of the world's first atomic bombing, in a gesture Tokyo and Washington hope will showcase their alliance and reinvigorate efforts to rid the world of nuclear arms. Even before it occurred, the visit stirred debate, with critics accusing both sides of having selective memories, and pointing to paradoxes in policies relying on nuclear deterrence while calling for an end to atomic weapons. The two governments hope Obama's visit to Hiroshima, where a US atomic bomb killed thousands instantly on August 6, 1945, and some 140,000 by the year's end, underscores a new level of reconciliation and tighter ties between the former enemies.

  • Barack Obama, US President, Hiroshima

    "We come to ponder the terrible force unleashed in the not so distant past," Obama said after laying a wreath at a Hiroshima peace memorial. "We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, thousands of Koreans and a dozen Americans held prisoner. Their souls speak to us." (Reuters Photo)

  • Barack Obama, US President, Hiroshima

    After speaking, Obama shook hands and chatted briefly with two atomic bomb survivors. Obama and Sunao Tsuboi, 91, smiled as they exchanged words; Shigeaki Mori, 79, cried and was embraced by the president. The city of Nagasaki was hit by a second nuclear bomb on Aug. 9, 1945, and Japan surrendered six days later. (AP Photo)

  • Barack Obama, US President, Hiroshima

    A majority of Americans see the bombings as having been necessary to end the war and save lives, although some historians question that view. Most Japanese believe they were unjustified. The White House had debated whether the time was right for Obama to break a taboo on presidential visits to Hiroshima, especially in an election year. (Reuters Photo)

  • Barack Obama, US President, Hiroshima

    But Obama's aides defused most negative reaction from military veterans' groups by insisting he would not second-guess the decision to drop the bombs. Obama's main goal in Hiroshima was to showcase his nuclear disarmament agenda, for which he won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. "Amongst those nations like my own that own nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them," he said. (Reuters Photo)

  • Barack Obama, US President, Hiroshima

    Obama avoided any direct expression of remorse or apology for the bombings, a decision that some critics had worried would allow Japan to stick to the narrative that paints it as a victim. "We remember all the innocent killed in the arc of that terrible war and wars that came before, and wars that would follow. We have a shared responsibility to look directly in the eye of history," he said. (AP Photo)

  • Barack Obama, US President, Hiroshima

    For atomic bomb survivor Eiji Hattori, Obama's remarks provided solace. "I think it was an apology," said Hattori, 73, who was a toddler at the time of the bombing and now suffers from three types of cancer. "I didn't think he'd go that far and say so much. I feel I've been saved somewhat ... For me, it was more than enough." Mori was also consoled by the president's embrace. "It made me so happy that I thought I was walking on air," he said. (AP Photo)

  • Barack Obama, US President, Hiroshima

    Obama has invested heavily during his term in modernising the US nuclear arsenal, and Japan relies on the US nuclear umbrella for extended deterrence. Abe's government has affirmed past official apologies over the war but said future generations should not be burdened by the sins of their forebears. (AP Photo)

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