Speaker Nancy Pelosi, third in line from the U.S. presidency, visits Hiroshima

by Hiromi Morita and Daiki Hisayuku, Staff Writers

The Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States, Nancy Pelosi, 68, arrived in Hiroshima on September 1. Speaker Pelosi is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the city in the 63 years since the atomic bombing. Hiroshima citizens, including the A-bomb survivors, are watching closely to see how she will react to her experience of the A-bombed city and what statements she will make at the G8 Summit of Lower House Speakers.

A Japanese government aircraft brought Speaker Pelosi to Hiroshima Airport. Wearing a white suit, she descended the steps to the aircraft along with Speaker Yohei Kono and other summit participants. Removing her sunglasses, she smiled and shook hands with the people who greeted her at the airport. Speaker Pelosi and the summit delegation were then transported to the city center by limousine bus to attend a commemorative concert and welcome dinner.

Speaker Pelosi is a more liberal member of the Democratic Party and a noted expert on issues involving human rights. Known as an outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s policy on Iraq, she became the first female speaker of the House of Representatives in January 2007. In order to realize the idea of holding the G8 Speakers’ Summit in Hiroshima, a proposal forwarded by Speaker Kono to each member nation, assent from the United States was a decisive factor. Speaker Pelosi’s ready agreement to the proposal led to its fulfillment.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States assumes a significant role. The U.S. constitution stipulates that, in case the President and the Vice President are unable to perform their duties, the Speaker of the House becomes the head of state. In this regard, the visit to Hiroshima by Speaker Pelosi means that the person third in line from the presidency has come to the A-bombed city.

Sunao Tsuboi, 83, chairman of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations, commented, “As a fellow human being, I welcome Speaker Pelosi to the city for this summit. However, I call for serious discussion involving the abolition of nuclear weapons rather than mere pleasant sentiments.”

With attention on nuclear disarmament growing in the world, Kazushi Kaneko, 83, chairman of another faction of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations, stated, “Under these circumstances, I believe that the speakers visiting Hiroshima cannot help but take steps toward the abolition of nuclear weapons.”

Ahead of the summit discussions, Speaker Pelosi and the other participants are scheduled to learn more about the damage wrought by the atomic bombing by visiting Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Peace Memorial Park.

(Originally published on September 2, 2008)