Amidst speculation that US President Barack Obama would be visiting Hiroshima during his tour of Japan later in May, a 78-year-old survivor of the 1945 Hiroshima bombing, is hoping that world leaders get a firsthand experience of the aftermath of a nuclear attack.
Obama is set to visit the Asian country to attend the G7 summit. So far, he has never visited Hiroshima or Nagasaki – the two cities that were bombed by the US during the Second World War, killing thousands. The atomic bombs completely destroyed both cities, and those who survived continue to suffer from serious health issues because of exposure to nuclear radiation.
Rose Gottemoeller, the US Undersecretary for Arms Control, said in Washington that the White House was "considering" a visit of the US president to Hiroshima during his May visit to Japan. However, she added that the president will take a final decision about the timing and purpose of visit later.
As an eight-year-old Keiko Ogura, witnessed the world's first nuclear strike on 6 August 1945 on Hiroshima. She said that she hopes Obama and other G7 leaders visit the city and "change their minds about possessing nuclear weapons". Her home was barely 2km outside the radius from ground zero of the bombing. "He and other leaders would realise that nuclear weapons are not about making allies and enemies, but about joining hands and fighting this evil together.
"We don't want to tell world leaders what to think, or make them apologise. They should just view it as an opportunity to lead the world in the right direction, because only they have the power to do that," she said.
In 2009, when Obama visited Japan, he expressed his wish to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "I certainly would be honoured – it would be meaningful for me to visit those two cities in the future," Obama had said. However, a secret US cable dated 3 September 2009, exposed by WikiLeaks, revealed that Japan had discouraged the US government from arranging such a visit, saying that an apology from the president for the nuclear attacks was a "non-starter", the Guardian reported.
The cable was sent to the then secretary of state Hillary Clinton from Japan's former vice-foreign minister Mitoji Yabunaka, who wrote in the cable, "While a simple visit to Hiroshima without fanfare is sufficiently symbolic to convey the right message, it is premature to include such program in the November visit."
If Obama goes ahead with his visit, he will become the first sitting US president to have ever visited the two cities. Nancy Pelosi, who visited the nuclear attack sites in 2008 as the speaker of the House, is the highest-ranking US official to do so.
In early 2014, Kazumi Matsui and Tomihisa Taue, the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, had met the US ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and requested that Obama attend the anniversary ceremony.