Barack Obama will become the first U.S. president to visit Hiroshima in Japan later this month, but he will not apologize for the United States' dropping of an atomic bomb on the city at the end of World War Two, the White House said on Tuesday.
Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize early in his presidency in 2009 in part for making nuclear nonproliferation a centerpiece of his agenda, Obama on May 27 will tour the site of the world's first nuclear bombing with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
"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," Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, wrote in a separate blog.
The bomb dropped on Aug. 6, 1945 killed thousands of people instantly and about 140,000 by the end of that year. Another was dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, and Japan surrendered six days later.
The visit comes as part of a May 21-28 swing through Asia, which will include a Group of Seven summit in Japan and his first trip to Vietnam. The Asia trip seeks to reinforce his geopolitical "pivot" toward the region, though friends and allies there have sometimes questioned Washington's commitment.
The Hiroshima tour will symbolize a new level of reconciliation between former wartime enemies who are now close allies.
On the final day of the summit in Japan, Obama and Abe will visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park near the spot where a U.S. warplane dropped an atomic bomb 71 years ago.
The decision to go to Hiroshima was hotly debated within the White House. There were concerns a U.S. presidential visit would be heavily criticized in the United States if it were seen as an apology.
The majority of Americans view the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as justified to end the war and save U.S lives. Most Japanese see it as unjustified.
After U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Hiroshima last month, survivors of the bombing and other residents said that if Obama visits, they hope for progress in ridding the world of nuclear weapons, rather than an apology.
(Feature image source: Twitter + AFP)