US president Barack Obama’s visit to Hiroshima, Japan, today (May 27) was seen by many as a poignant gesture—not quite an apology for the US’s devastating atomic bomb attack on the city during World War II, but at least an important acknowledgement of the human cost of that military action.
But around the world, others were critical of the visit.
In Beijing, a column in the state-controlled newswire Xinhua painted the visit as “yet another opportunity seized by Washington and Tokyo to pursue their own ulterior motives.” Obama wants to bolster his political legacy, it said, and earn “brownie points for his pal Hillary Clinton,” while Japan is “intent on indulging its growing appetite for war-mongering.”
In North Korea, Obama was described in a commentary by the Korean Central News Agency as a “nuclear war lunatic” making a “childish political calculation” by visiting the Japanese city.
Back in the US, a New York Post column was headlined “Obama’s shameful apology tour lands in Hiroshima.” It said the president “may not often say ‘I apologize’ explicitly, but his meaning is always clear, especially since he often bends his knee overseas, where he knows the foreign audiences will get his meaning.”
For some survivors of the blast, Obama’s visit was simply long overdue. Hiroshi Shimizu, now in his seventies, was a child when the bomb hit his city, and he’s been waiting most of his life for a US president to visit and see the destruction the blast caused. Shimizu serves as general secretary of the Hiroshima Confederation of A-Bomb Sufferers Organization, which for three decades has been asking US officials to visit the city. He said Obama should have visited right after delivering a 2009 speech in Prague, in which he promoted a nuclear-free world.