Editorial: May the voices of the A-bombed city be heard by President Obama

May 27 is a historic day. U.S. President Barack Obama will become the first sitting president to visit Hiroshima and gain a deeper idea of the devastation wrought by the atomic bombing.

As president of the United States, the nation which used nuclear weapons for the first time in human history, what will Mr. Obama feel, and what message will he convey from the A-bombed city? The Chugoku Shimbun is keenly covering this question.

Our newspaper’s interest runs deeper than other media outlets because the Chugoku Shimbun experienced the horror of the atomic bombing first-hand, and struggled to overcome the hardships of this nuclear attack. When the city center was turned into a sea of fire on August 6, 1945, our headquarters at the time, which was located just 0.9 kilometers from the hypocenter, was completely decimated. In all, 114 company employees, about one-third of our workforce, lost their lives. Yet despite such devastating conditions, the surviving workers of the Chugoku Shimbun managed to resume producing the newspaper three days later.

Following Japan’s defeat in the war, the Chugoku Shimbun has persistently appealed for the abolition of nuclear weapons and the realization of lasting peace in the world through our extensive reporting on the horror of the atomic bombing and the efforts made to revive the city of Hiroshima. We believe that nuclear arms can be eliminated from the earth; our policy for the coverage we pursue is based on this belief and has remained unchanged for the past 71 years. The Chugoku Shimbun has not only sounded an alarm over the world’s nuclear arms race but has steadfastly sought stronger relief measures for the A-bomb survivors to address their suffering from the bomb’s aftereffects.

To our disappointment, though, the leaders of the nuclear powers have not responded to the voices of the people of the A-bombed cities. The actions of the United States, the nuclear superpower, have been particularly egregious. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the U.S. president even considered resorting to nuclear weapons. It cannot be denied that the United States has turned a deaf ear to protests over nuclear testing and has, instead, maintained the myth of nuclear deterrence in order to justify clinging to its nuclear arsenal.

Meanwhile, with the antinuclear movement growing rapidly, primarily in Europe, there is now a powerful trend toward nuclear disarmament. Today, there are about 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world, a significant decline from the more than 60,000 nuclear weapons that once existed. Nevertheless, such current conditions, where nations threaten one another with these weapons of mass destruction that are capable of annihilating humanity many times over, is clearly aberrant and abhorrent.

Under such circumstances, the Flame of Peace continues to burn in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, soon to receive the visit of the leader of the United States, the nation responsible for the nuclear attack. This flame, it is said, will be extinguished once nuclear abolition is finally realized. When Mr. Obama became the American president seven years ago, and advocated a world without nuclear weapons in the speech he made in Prague, the A-bomb survivors were hopeful that the Flame of Peace would be put out one day soon. But as the years have continued to pass, we can’t help but feel disappointed at the reality that has since unfolded.

The current U.S. administration has persisted in conducting subcritical nuclear experiments and nuclear performance tests for new weapons while crafting a plan to update the nation’s existing nuclear arsenal. About 1 trillion dollars (about 110 trillion yen) is the estimated cost of the project over the next 30 years. These facts sharply contradict the ideal of nuclear abolition that Mr. Obama has himself advocated.

Will President Obama view his visit to Hiroshima as a diplomatic achievement? And will he do so, seeking to strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance, while overlooking the people of Okinawa who are now shaken with new outrage over the sexual assault and murder allegedly committed there by a former U.S. marine?

During his visit to Hiroshima, Mr. Obama should hold a number of things close to his heart, including the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons, which killed scores of innocent civilians and ravaged the lives of many more. Even if he is unable to stay in the city for long, we hope he will spend as much time as possible in the Peace Memorial Park.

The question of the U.S. president making an apology for the atomic bombings has become a focus of his visit to Hiroshima. From the perspective of the U.S. government, it seems this issue did not become a sticking point. The results of a survey of A-bomb survivors also indicate that many survivors are not insisting that the president apologize. It should be understood, however, that this result doesn’t mean that the survivors have forgiven these acts by the United States and now view the atomic bombings as events of the past.

As for the speech Mr. Obama is expected to deliver in Hiroshima, what we hope to hear is not simply an addressed adorned with pretty words. Rather, we would like him to share his honest sentiments as a human being as he holds the inhumanity of nuclear weapons in mind, which he will surely recognize after touring the Peace Memorial Museum and meeting with A-bomb survivors. The people of Hiroshima will be watching the president closely, eyeing to what extent he is truly resolved to advance the abolition of nuclear arms.