Hiroshima: a touchy topic for the U.S.

The White House has stressed that there will be no apology or a re-visit on the decision to use the atomic bomb.

May 11, 2016 05:42 pm | Updated September 12, 2016 03:38 pm IST

President Barack Obama this month will become the first sitting American president to visit Hiroshima.

President Barack Obama this month will become the first sitting American president to visit Hiroshima.

Barack Obama will become the first U.S. President to visit Hiroshima, the first target of an atomic bomb, 70 years ago. While the Japanese have welcomed the President’s landmark visit, there have been widespread concerns about whether Mr. Obama will apologise to Japan for the bombing. Dismissing these speculations, the White House has stressed that there will be no apology or a re-visit on the decision to use the atomic bomb.

Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe too has shown no signs of pressing for an apology. “The Prime Minister of the world’s only nation to have suffered atomic attacks, and the leader of the world’s only nation to have used the atomic weapons at war will together pay respects for the victims,” Mr. Abe told reporters. “I believe that would be a way to respond to the victims of the atomic bombings and the survivors who are still in pain.”

Last month, Secretary of State John Kerry became the highest-ranking United States official ever to visit Hiroshima, during a diplomatic conclave intended to set the stage for the Group of 7 meeting this month.

What happened in 1945

The U.S. attack on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, in the final days of World War II, killed 140,000 people and badly wounded many thousands more. While it scarred a generation of Japanese, both physically and mentally, many Americans believe the bombing, along with another on Aug. 9 on the city of Nagasaki,.... Japan announced it would surrender on Aug. 15. Many critics believe that the then President Harry Truman’s decision to use atomic bombs on Japan was a way of showing the Soviet Union the U.S.' capabilities in modern warfare and weaponry. And some others believe it was the U.S.' answer to Japan’s bombing Pearl Harbour in 1941. > More...

Two other top U.S. politicians have visited the site of bombing, Former President Jimmy Carter, in 1984, visited the site three years after he left office. Richard Nixon went on April 11, 1964, four years before he won the presidential election.

U.S. Presidents’ stand on nuclear weapons:

President Eisenhower, Harry Truman’s successor, had publicly regretted the use of “that awful thing.” He is quoted to have said, "...the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing." Eisenhower was the Chief of Staff of the Army. However, after becoming the President, he initiated the ‘New Look’ policy which relied on nuclear energy to deter potential threats.

Richard Nixon , in 1985, had indicated that he had considered using atomic weapons four times during his presidency including one to end the Vietnam War. During his address to the Nation on the War in Vietnam on November 3, 1969, said, “we shall provide a shield if a nuclear power threatens the freedom of a nation allied with us or of a nation whose survival we consider vital to our security.”

Gerald Ford was the first sitting president to have made a visit to Japan.

John F. Kennedy had initiated of the nuclear test ban treaty which prohibited atomic testing on the ground, in the atmosphere, or underwater, but not underground.

The Bill Clinton administration made a significant change to the U.S.’s nuclear doctrine, abandoning guidelines issued by the Reagan administration. The Clinton regime also reached breakthrough with North Korea, which had refused inspections of its nuclear dumping sites. A deal was reached between the two countries in October, 1994. N. Korea decided to shut some of its nuclear reactors capable of producing materials for weapons after the U.S. agreed to help N. Korea build light water reactors to produce electricity.

George W. Bush said he was committed to a “credible deterrent with the lowest possible number of nuclear weapons consistent with our national security needs, including our obligations to our allies. “ He said he believed that nuclear weapons had a vital role to play in the country’s security. He said the U.S. could and would change the size, the composition, the character of its nuclear forces in a way that reflects the reality that the Cold War was over.

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