John Kerry Made an Emotional Visit to the Hiroshima Peace Park

The First US Secretary of State Visited the Hiroshima Memorial Park and Underlined U.S.-Japan Alliance

April 14th, 2016

On Sunday, April 10th, John Kerry, the First US Secretary of State attended a memorial ceremony in the Hiroshima peace park in Japan for victims of the American atomic bombing. He was the first highest-ranking United States administration official to visit this site, more than 70 years after the city was destroyed by the world’s first atomic bombing, which killed about 140,000 people. As well as the Hiroshima Peace Park Memorial, he also visited the Bomb Dome, over which the A-bomb exploded, and the Hiroshima peace museum, which tells the stories and hosts personal effects of people who died after the devastating impact of the attack. The three sites together stand as a powerful symbol for nuclear disarmament.

In this emotional visit, Mr. Kerry was joined by foreign ministers from the G7 group of nations, they observed together a minute of silence and left flowers at a cenotaph for its victims.
John Kerry was there with top diplomats from nuclear-armed Britain and France, as well as Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and the European Union to hold a two-day meeting in the city, to discuss about currently issues such as the refugee crisis in Europe, North Korea’s nuclear program, the conflict in Ukraine and global terrorism, before the annual Group of 7 summit meeting, taking place at the end of next month in Japan, with the participation of the President Barack Obama.

For this reason this visit by Mr. Kerry has intensified speculations about whether Obama will go to Hiroshima during that days. He would be the first American president to visit the city, a decision that would resonate deeply in Japan but would be controversial at home, if it were viewed as an apology. As a matter of fact, the majority of Americans view the bombings as a necessary means to force Japan’s surrender and save US lives, while the vast majority of Japanese believe it was not justified. When Mr. Kerry was asked about a possible visit from Obama, he answered: “Everyone should visit Hiroshima, and everyone means everyone. So I hope one day the president of the United States will be among the everyone who is able to come here. Whether or not he can come as president, I don’t know.”

Any insinuation that the United States was apologizing could prove highly damaging politically. Japan has never demanded that the United States apologize for the bombings, and Mr. Kerry did not do so in this occasion. Still, the Japanese foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, who is from Hiroshima, called the visit by Mr. John Kerry and other Group of 7 officials “a historic day”, in order to deliver a strong and clear message of peace to the world, hoping in a world free of nuclear weapons. That act itself would also mean a lot for people in Hiroshima. It can also be seen as an effort to strengthen the relationship between the US and Japan.

During his visit, Mr. Kerry also left a message in the museum’s guestbook: “It is a harsh, compelling reminder not only of our obligation to end the threat of nuclear weapons, but to rededicate all of our effort to avoid war itself. War must be the last resort never the first choice. 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."

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Cultural Diplomacy News
Gloria Dalla Vecchia, CD News