Obama willing to visit Hiroshima, Nagasaki while in office

U.S. President Barack Obama expressed willingness to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the two Japanese cities the United States dropped atomic bombs on during World War II, while he is in office although he is unable to do so when he visits Japan later this week, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said Tuesday.

''I would be honored to have the opportunity to visit those cities at some point during my presidency,'' Obama said during an interview broadcast by NHK, adding it is unfortunate he is unable to visit the two cities this time due to a tight schedule.

On the contentious issue of relocating a U.S. military airfield in Okinawa Prefecture, Obama showed understanding toward the work in progress by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and his government to review a past agreement between Tokyo and Washington over the issue and said, ''I think the idea is perfectly appropriate that the new government wants to reexamine how to move forward in a new environment.''

But he also said he is confident Tokyo will come to a conclusion after the review to continue with the arrangements that have been discussed between the two countries to realign U.S. forces in Japan.

Under a 2006 bilateral accord on the reconfiguration of U.S. forces in Japan, which took years to reach, the U.S. Marine Corps' Futemma Air Station is to be relocated by 2014 from downtown Ginowan to a less populated coastal area in Nago, both in Okinawa.

However, Hatoyama has repeatedly said he is eager to transfer the base out of the prefecture or even out of Japan in accordance with his campaign pledge for the Aug. 30 general election, in which his Democratic Party of Japan won a landslide victory.

In praise of Hatoyama and his government, Obama also said in the interview conducted Monday, ''Prime Minister Hatoyama was leading a movement of change in Japan that really was unprecedented. It was a political earthquake there.''

Obama is scheduled to visit Japan from Friday to Saturday before attending the weekend summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Singapore.

The second meeting between Hatoyama and Obama is scheduled on Friday night, as the two met and talked in New York in September.

Survivors of the atomic bombings have been asking that Obama visit the cities, while the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have increased their joint activities calling for a nuclear free world, including a joint bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics.

(Distributed by Kyodo News on Nov. 10, 2009)