Presidents of the United States have never visited, while in office, the Japanese city of Hiroshima, where on Aug. 6, 1945, an American aircraft dropped its secret weapon, the atomic bomb, that helped bring an end to World War II. Another bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki on Aug. 9. Japan announced its surrender on Aug. 15.
President Obama shows political gumption in becoming the first sitting president to visit Hiroshima, which he will do this month. His mission is in part to advance the push for a secure world without nuclear weapons. He will go to Hiroshima with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Hiroshima is an appropriate visit. It will represent a joint stop by the leader of the only country to have been attacked by an atomic weapon and the leader of the only country to have used an atomic weapon.
The president’s move is bold because he’ll doubtless be criticized for a visit that some will claim is an apology to Japan for the use of the atomic bomb, which killed at least 140,000 people and wounded many thousands more, some of whom died later from post-attack poisoning.
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But the White House has made it clear this is not an apology. Absent the bombing, an allied invasion of Japan would have resulted in perhaps a million deaths, given Japan’s determination to fight to the last soldier. President Harry Truman made the right call, and he stood by it. So does President Obama.