‘Obama not to visit Hiroshima, Nagasaki during Japan trip’
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Last Updated: Friday, October 29, 2010, 14:18
  
Washington: US President Barack Obama will not visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki during his trip to Japan next month, a senior US government official said.

The disclosure came as expectations rose in Japan that the US president, who has set out his vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, would visit the two cities hit by US atomic bombings in 1945.

Obama appears to be putting priority on fulfilling his itinerary centered on the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Yokohama on Nov 13-14.

On the news, Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba said today, "It is extremely regrettable since we have asked the president to attend the meeting of Nobel Peace Prize laureates (in Hiroshima on Nov. 12-14)."

But Akiba expressed hope that Obama would visit in the future, saying the president's latest decision does not mean he would never do so.

"I hope I could directly ask him to come here as soon as possible to see the realities of the devastation caused by the atomic bombing," the mayor said in a press conference.

Both the prefectural and municipal governments of Hiroshima sought the attendance of Obama, the winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, at the upcoming Nobel peace prize winners' conference.

Among others in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Akihiro Takahashi, 79, former curator of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum who once wrote to Obama urging him to visit Hiroshima, said "I have been so let down, and now I would like to tell Obama not to come."

Hideo Tsuchiyama, 85, former president of Nagasaki University, said while he understands it would be difficult for Obama to visit the atomic bombing sites amid strong resistance from conservatives, "I want him to reaffirm the ideals expressed in his Prague speech and set rules to generate an irreversible trend to abolish nuclear arms."

He referred to Obama's speech in Prague last year, in which he articulated his vision of a nuke-free world.

Some officials within US government circles have viewed that such a visit would benefit Obama's agenda of ridding the world of nuclear arms and prevent nuclear proliferation.

But others believe the visit would entail political risk, as there is widespread perception among the US general public that it would be tantamount to an apology.

Considering these factors, some officials view there would not be much to gain for Obama spending time and effort visiting Hiroshima or Nagasaki at this point, as he has already declared his intention to seek a world without nuclear weapons.

The US official also said the United States and Japan are not likely to issue a joint declaration aimed at deepening the bilateral alliance at the time of Obama's visit.

The two governments had considered issuing a fresh declaration to replace the 1996 joint security statement, as this year marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the revised mutual security pact between Japan and the United States.

PTI


First Published: Friday, October 29, 2010, 14:18


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