By Kareem Chin, ASP Adjunct Fellow
On Friday May 27th, President Obama will be the first sitting American president since WW II to visit to Hiroshima, Japan. By visiting the site with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Obama wants to highlight his commitment to pursuing peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.
On August 6, 1945 Hiroshima was the city over which the U.S. deployed the world’s first atomic bomb in the hopes of bringing the war to a quick end. The bomb, named “Little Boy,” instantly left 80,000 to 140,000 people dead and injured an additional 100,000. Japan surrendered a week later. But this will not be an apology, the White House says:
“He will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II. Instead, he will offer a forward-looking vision focused on our shared future.”
Prime Minister Abe stated he hoped “to turn this into an opportunity for the U.S. and Japan to together pay tribute to the memories of the victims.”
The visit marks over 70 years since the U.S. and Japan were wartime enemies that have become close strategic allies. With a heightened nuclear threat on the Korean peninsula and increased Asian superpower competition for control of the resource-rich waters and islands of the East China Sea, the partnership is an important anchor for regional stability.
The U.S. and Japan have mutual national security and economic interests to protect. In Japan alone, the U.S. has committed a military presence of 54,000 active duty and 8000 DoD civilian personnel. In South Korea America has stationed an additional 28,500 troops and under wartime conditions assumes control of a sweeping 640,000 South Korean Service member force – most certainly a strong deterrent to aggression.
In the economic realm, the U.S. and Japan have a combined world domestic product of almost 30% and belong to world’s most powerful players. Japan is one of the 11 Asian signatories to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, a centerpiece of the President’s Asia policy.
Obama’s Hiroshima visit comes as part of a May 21-28 tour through Asia, where he visited Vietnam and will participate in the G7 summit in Japan.