Kerry visits Hiroshima memorial 7 decades after A-bomb

2016-04-11 08:45
Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, left, and US Secretary of State John Kerry talk after offering wreaths at the cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, western Japan, April 11, 2016. (Kyodo News, AP)

Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, left, and US Secretary of State John Kerry talk after offering wreaths at the cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, western Japan, April 11, 2016. (Kyodo News, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Hiroshima – US Secretary of State John Kerry visited the revered memorial to Hiroshima's atomic bombing on Monday, delivering a message of peace and hope for a nuclear-free world seven decades after United States used the weapon for the first time in history and killed 140 000 Japanese.

Kerry became the most senior American official to travel to city, touring its peace museum with other foreign ministers of the Group of Seven industrialised nations and laying a wreath at the adjoining park's stone-arched monument, the exposed steel beams of Hiroshima's iconic A-Bomb Dome in the distance.

The otherwise sombre occasion was lifted by the presence of about 800 Japanese waving flags of the G7 nations, including that of the United States.

Kerry didn't speak publicly at the ceremony, though could be seen with his arm around Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, a Hiroshima native, and whispering in his ear. The ministers departed with origami cranes in their respective national colours around their neck, Kerry draped in red, white and blue.

"Everyone in the world should see and feel the power of this memorial," Kerry wrote in the museum's guest book. "It is a stark, harsh, compelling reminder not only of our obligation to end the threat of nuclear weapons, but to rededicate all our effort to avoid war itself."

"War must be the last resort – never the first choice," he added. "This memorial compels us all to redouble our efforts to change the world, to find peace and build the future so yearned for by citizens everywhere."

Kerry's appearance, just footsteps away from Ground Zero, completed an evolution for the United States, whose leaders avoided the city for many years because of political sensitivities.

Scars

No serving US president has visited the site, and it took 65 years for a US ambassador to attend Hiroshima's annual memorial service. Many Americans believe the dropping of atomic bombs here on August 6, 1945, and on the Japanese city of Nagasaki three days later were justified and hastened the end of the war.

Nevertheless, Japanese survivors' groups have campaigned for decades to bring leaders from the US and other nuclear powers to see Hiroshima's scars as part of a grassroots movement to abolish nuclear weapons.

As Kerry expressed interest, neither Japanese government officials nor survivor groups pressed for the US to say sorry. And a senior American official travelling with Kerry said no apology would occur.

Shortly before the ceremony, Kerry called it "a moment that I hope will underscore to the world the importance of peace and the importance of strong allies working together to make the world safer and, ultimately, we hope to be able to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction."

"And while we will revisit the past and honour those who perished, this trip is not about the past," Kerry said as he met with Kishida. "It's about the present and the future particularly, and the strength of the relationship that we have built, the friendship that we share, the strength of our alliance and the strong reminder of the imperative we all have to work for peace for peoples everywhere."

Obama himself may travel to Hiroshima next month.

The president still hasn't made a final decision about visiting the city and its memorial when he attends a Group of Seven meeting of leaders in central Japan in late May, according to the senior US official, who wasn't authorised to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity. During his first year in office, Obama said he would be "honoured" to do so.

The museum includes harrowing images of the destruction and shocking exhibits, including the torn clothing of children who perished and skin, fingernails, deformed tongues and other horrible examples of the exposure to the blast and its residual radiation.

Some explanations mounted on the wall, however, don't align with the views of all historians and experts in the United States or elsewhere. For example, one suggests that the US used the weapon in part to justify the extraordinary costs of the Manhattan Project to develop it. Disagreements over motivations and possible justification rage among historians, ethicists and others to this day.

Read more on:    john kerry  |  barack obama  |  japan  |  us

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.