U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a historic trip to Hiroshima Monday, visiting one of the two Japanese cities affected by the nuclear bombs dropped by the United States during World War II, Bloomberg reported. It is estimated that 80,000 people perished immediately when the nuclear bomb hit Hiroshima, and another 40,000 were killed when the United States bombed Nagasaki. The death toll significantly increased in the years that followed due to injuries and exposure to dangerous levels of radiation. Six days after the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan issued its surrender and World War II came to an end.
Kerry, the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Hiroshima, said that it was a “gut-wrenching” reminder of the need to get rid of nuclear weapons, the BBC reported. Nancy Pelosi, the former speaker of the house of representatives, visited in 2008, but U.S. diplomats have not made official visits, worrying that it would be seen as a form of apology. Many in the diplomatic corps, and in the United States in general, believe that the nuclear bombing was necessary to end the war and save American lives. Kerry was joined by other ministers of the G7, a group of nations that are holding talks at Hiroshima. Kerry walked a fine line by saying that his trip would “revisit the past and honor those who perished,” but that the main focus of the visit would be “about the present and the future,” the BBC reported.
Kerry’s trip comes amidst rumors that President Barack Obama is considering making a stop in Hiroshima when he is in Japan for a different G7 summit. Obama would, of course, be the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima. This could prove to be a momentous event in the nuclear disarmament movement, which has been fighting for a long time to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons until the world is nuclear-weapon free. Kerry, for his part, said he would tell Obama “how important it is at some point to come” to Hiroshima, Bloomberg reported. Obama has visited Japan three times, but he has never been to Hiroshima.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said the G7 visit to Hiroshima was meant to restart efforts that would lead to a nuclear-free world, according to ABC News. Talks for nuclear disarmament have fallen off in recent years, as Kishida pointed out, with instability increasing throughout the world due to terrorism and continuing nuclear provocations from North Korea. The G7 group issued the “Hiroshima Declaration,” which calls on other leaders to visit Hiroshima to add more weight to the disarmament movement.
The G7 leaders’ visit to Hiroshima is an important step toward a nuclear-free world, which is an important goal that can help deliver a safer, more stable world. While it is understood that this disarmament process is difficult, especially when governments around the world are dealing with more time-sensitive issues, the magnitude of the damage that could be done by one nuclear attack should spur all leaders into action. Ultimately, the Earth is our only home, and we should do all that we can to ensure a peaceful, safe planet for everyone.