US President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima:
Its implications and Expectations
Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, Nagasaki University (RECNA)
On May 27, 2016, President Obama will become the first United States president to visit Hiroshima while in office. Such a visit has long been a fervent hope for A-bomb survivors (hibakusha) and many international organizations, research institutions, and civic groups. RECNA welcomes the President’s decision with great respect and gratitude.
President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima will carry at least the same historic importance as that of the speech he gave in Prague in 2009, soon after becoming president. First, it would be a tremendous experience for the President of the United States, which is the only country that used the atomic bomb and is still the largest nuclear weapon state, to witness the catastrophic consequences of the atomic bomb and share the feeling of hibakusha by himself. His voice from the site itself will be a most powerful message to the world about the consequences of the bomb. Second, as a result of the President visit, it will be easier for leaders of other nuclear weapon states to visit Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Third, it will be more evident that the purpose of his visit is not to clear the past but to move forward for the world free of nuclear weapons. As a result, his visit could be a trigger to cause a “paradigm shift” in stalling global efforts in nuclear disarmaments.
However, at the same time, the US is still not positive towards movements to establish legally binding measures to ban of nuclear weapons and is not attending the UN Open Ended Working Group on this subject. Besides, it continues to spend billions of dollars on “nuclear weapon modernization programs” which could reverse the efforts on nuclear disarmament. If the visit went without substantial message, it cannot be a powerful source to fundamentally change the movements towards the world free of nuclear weapons.
It seems that he will only visit Hiroshima but not Nagasaki this time, which is a small regret for us. But, the significance of this visit will not be undermined at all even without his visit to Nagasaki. Still, we sincerely hope that he will deliver the message; “Let Nagasaki be the last”.
Finally, this visit is for global nuclear disarmament and thus if, as reported in the media, the visit is considered as a part of US-Japan alliance efforts, it could be not only misleading but also undermine the value of his visit. We, RECNA, highly appreciate the significance of his visit to Hiroshima as a way to achieve the world without nuclear weapon and looking forward to his remarks at the site will keep watching our eyes on the following actions on nuclear disarmament.