US Secretary of State John Kerry accepts wreaths with Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at the Peace Memorial Park.
Seven decades after a deadly atomic bombing ripped through Hiroshima, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry honored its dead by laying a wreath at the city’s solemn World War II memorial.
After touring through relics of the bombing’s aftermath, Kerry penned a heartfelt note in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Park guest book that stated “everyone in the world should see and feel the power of this memorial.”
“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,” Kerry wrote. “War must be the last resort — never the first choice.”
His symbolic gesture before top Japanese officials and school children on Monday morning also makes Kerry the highest-ranking American official to pay his respects to Hiroshima after 71 years.
In the wake of President Obama’s historic visit to Communist country of Cuba, a senior U.S. official said Kerry’s visit is by no means an apology for dropping two atomic weapons on the former Axis power.
“If you are asking whether the secretary and I think all Americans and all Japanese are filled with sorrow at the tragedies that befell so many of our countrymen, the answer is yes,” the official told reporters on Sunday.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry walks past the A-Bomb Dome after visiting the site in Hiroshima.
The August 6 blast obliterated the bayside city of Hiroshima killing 140,000 people by the end of 1945 through the initial explosion and the deadly radiation poisoning that followed.
Kerry’s visit to Hiroshima is tied to the G7 conference, where he opened Sunday’s meeting with world leaders with a call to cease production of nuclear weapons and prevent their use.
“And while we will revisit the past and honor those who perished, this trip is not about the past; it’s about the present,” Kerry told Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida during a meeting Monday.
Although Japan has never sought an apology from the United States for the Hiroshima blast, nor the second bombing in Nagasaki that prompted the country’s wartime surrender, a visit from the top diplomat could be perceived as such from Republican opposition.
Many Americans believe the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks were justified and hastened the end of the war.
Former President Jimmy Carter visited the Hiroshima site in 1984, three years after he left office likely to avoid political fallout from associating with the United States’ history of testing and using nuclear weapons.
Kerry’s visit could pave a path for President Obama to visit in May during the annual G7 summit, but he has not committed to a plan. During his first year in office, Obama said he would be “honored” to visit Hiroshima.
With News Wire Services