Asia Reacts to President Barack Obama's Historic Visit to Hiroshima

Share this:

On May 27, 2016 President Barack Obama became the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima, Japan and pay respects to the victims of the August 6, 1945 atomic bombing conducted by the United States during World War II. This page currently highlights both the expectations surrounding Obama's visit following the official confirmation of the visit on May 10, 2016 and reactions of the Asia-Pacific community following the conclusion of the visit. 

To view expectations that were voiced prior to President Obama's visit, scroll down or click here

To view additional topics in the Asia Reacts to... series, scroll down or click here

Click on a country to jump down to its specific reactions: AustraliaIndia,  JapanSouth Korea

AUSTRALIA

"First, the US President did not apologise for the dropping of the atomic bomb in Japan during the WWLL as well as tackle whether the decision to use the bomb was right. Second, the Obama administration is being also criticised for its plan to modernise the US nuclear arsenal." 

INDIA

"But his [Obama's] speech at the Memorial Park refrained from reorienting the long due American reckoning with the atomic bombings in not even obliquely revisiting the decision to drop the bombs or condemning the act." 

JAPAN

"Nations in the Asia-Pacific region may severely assess Japanese and U.S. leaders' visits because of their perception of history. But it would be highly meaningful for Japan and the U.S. to demonstrate to the region that the enemies in the 20th century can achieve a reconciliation to such an extent." 

"If Japan and the U.S., which clashed head-on with each other in the war, can move forward with their reconciliation and further deepen their friendship, Japan and other Asian countries should be able to do the same thing. The U.S. president's visit to Hiroshima seems to have sent such a message." 

"There still remains the seppuku (harakiri) culture in Japan. If the head of the state admits responsibility...the Japanese people will forgive (and forget). In Japan, showing remorse is advantageous. Yet in the U.S., they have to consider the legal consequences once they admit accountability." - Takeshi Suzuki, professor, School of Information and Communication, Meiji University 

"I hope [people] will not leave Mr. Obama to do the task alone and that by listening to his speech, every person will be spurred to think about what he or she can do." - Terumi Tanaka, Nagasaki atomic bombing survivor 

"But true reconciliation can be achieved only after serious efforts are made by both sides to understand the feelings of the other and move closer to each other. From this point of view, Obama's trip to Hiroshima should be regarded as just a first step, even though it was a big step." 

"President Obama once again referred to a world without nuclear weapons, but we shouldn't be unreservedly pleased about that. This is because the United States hasn't changed its stance that the atomic bombings were right. As long as the country justifies the atomic bombings, it could give the country a pretext to use nuclear weapons again." 

Buzzfeed's Japan branch interviews Japanese residents and visitors in Hiroshima about what they thought of President Obama's visit to Hiroshima. 

"Obama should have stated what lesson we are clearly to learn by that atrocious and inhumane act. Lacking a concrete plan for achieving a nuclear-free world, we in Japan may have confirmed that we kind of like Obama personally. But there's no plan to rid the world of nuclear weapons." - Koichi Nakano, professor, political science, Sophia University 

SOUTH KOREA

"Whether or not, his [Obama's] visit was seen as a big favor to help boost Abe's legitimacy in undoing safety measures to keep Japan from having aggressive ambitions again. [...] This can revive the tragic past when Korea was sandwiched between big powers in the previous centuries and subjugated by Japan as the result of competition and negotiations among them." 

"When expressing his feelings about the visit, he mentioned tens of thousands of Korean victims. We take notice that this is the first time that a sitting U.S. president explicitly mourned Korean victims right in Hiroshima. In such a historic speech, it is meaningful that he clearly mentioned Koreans, putting them on par with American and Japanese victims." - Korean Foreign Ministry official 

Commentator discusses how the South Korean government dropped the ball to be more involved in President Obama's visit to Hiroshima, letting South Korea be for all intents and purposes be pushed out of the discussion. 

"I want the United States to apologize for killing all those citizens living in Hiroshima and pay compensation." - Shim Myoung-ja, Korean atomic bomb survivor 

"To Koreans' regret, however, Obama failed to visit a monument dedicated to Korean victims of the bombing that was just 200 meters away. The leaders of the U.S. and Japan laid flowers before the Hiroshima monument together, effectively giving a green light to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is trying to emphasize Japan's image as a 'victim' of the war [...] The United States should know that South Korea cannot applaud a situation, in which Japan, the inflictor of wartime atrocities, is being transformed into a victim." 

Click on a country to jump down to its specific reactions: ChinaIndiaJapanNorth KoreaSouth Korea 

CHINA

"The victims [in Japan] deserve sympathy, but the perpetrators could never shake off their responsibility." - Wang Yi, Chinese Foreign Minister

"Hiroshima should not serve as a card to be played in a game of politics. Instead, it should serve as a grim reminder of the atrocities misled governments [Japan's WWII government] are capable of inflicting upon innocent people both at home and abroad and as a strong warning against nuclear warfare." 

"Against the backdrop of the continuous rise in China's national strength, the US has also changed its Japan policy from the past 'demilitarization' and 'excessive restrictions' to 'rearmament of Japan' in a bid to use a power Japan to balance China's rise. However, the US is still wary of an excessively powerful Japan. [...] The US actually holds more fears about Japan than China and its more vigilant toward it." 

"Yet, it is quite likely the Japanese media and right-wingers will interpret a visit by the US president itself as an apologetic gesture, as they did when US Secretary of State John Kerry visited the city's Memorial Park in April. World sympathy has often been with the victims of the atomic bombings [...] [y]et they are also victims of Japanese militarism, something the right-wing groups in Japan constantly try to shun." 

"Although Japanese officials were too embarassed to ask, still, Japan's public opinion pretentiously tossed out the question - will Obama apologize for the WWII bombing? The answer they received from the White House is negative." 

"Japan has been ceaselessly emphasizing its identity as the world's sole victim of nuclear weapons, with which it tries to curry sympathy from the world. It highlighted the horrific suffering cause by the atomic bombs but with little reference to the causes of the war. When reflecting upon the atomic bombing tragedy, Japan should not disregard the fact that it is the consequence of its militaristic aggression." 

INDIA

"Obama and Trump, if only inadvertently, have drawn attention to the deeper paradox of Japan's nuclear story. Although Japan was the first and only victim of atomic weapons, its post-war security has depended on the American "nuclear umbrella." Long before Trump, the credibility of the US's extended deterrence had come under some questioning in Asia."

JAPAN

Buzzfeed's Japan branch interviews Japanese residents and visitors in Hiroshima about what they want to tell President Obama as he prepares to visit Hiroshima. 

"I want him to face our displays [depicting the destruction of the atomic bomb] not as someone in power, but as a human being, or a father." - Kenji Shiga, Director, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum 

"We must not let this visit be nothing but a political performance in which President Obama is given a bouquet of flowers as his time in office comes to a close. It's important to broaden the discussion about denuclearization while hearing what Korean atomic bomb survivors have to say." - Masakazu Tomen, reporter, Chugoku Shimbun

"A total of 1042 people from 90 countries responded to the question: 'Do you thik President Obama should apologize for the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945?'" 

Citizens of Hiroshima weigh in on what Obama's visit will mean for hibakusha or atomic bomb survivors and the prospects of an eventual nuclear-free world. 

"I, as the prime minister of the only country to have suffered nuclear attacks, and the leader of the world's only country that used nuclear weapons [President Obama] will together express condolences for the victims. This, I believe, will respond to the wish of the victims and those who are still suffering." - Abe Shinzo, Prime Minister of Japan

"Following Washington's announcement of the visit Tuesday evening, The Japan Times [conducted] an online poll asking Internet users whether Obama should apologize. More than 600 people responded as of 7 p.m. Wednesday, with about 62 percent saying he should not. About 38 percent of respondents said he should." 

NORTH KOREA

"Even if Obama visits the damaged city, he cannot hide his identity as a nuclear war fanatic and nuclear weapons proliferator." - Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), state news agency of North Korea

North Korea's official newspaper calls visit a means of hiding "the real nature [of the United States] as a nuclear criminal." 

SOUTH KOREA

"'The world thinks Japan is the atomic bomb victim. This is wrong. Japan is the country that began the war. Koreans are the victims of the atomic bomb." - Shim Jin-Tae, protestor 

"If this situation continues [Japan being allowed to play the victim], Japan may say that its attack on Pearl Harbor was triggered by the United States and that it is unjust to hold them accountable for the Pacific War. If this happens, the United States will suffer. By allowing Japan to reverse the postwar order established under the initiative of the United States, it will destroy Pax Americana in Northeast Asia." 

"The important thing is to clearly hold Japan responsible-by which we mean Japan the aggressor, not Japan the victim. During World War II and the period of colonial rule that preceded it, Japan inflicted immense suffering on the countries of Asia. Though more than 70 years have passed since then, Japan has been slow to make amends for these actions." 

"We hope that your visit to Hiroshima is not exploited by the administration of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which seeks to portray Japan as a victim and to shirk responsibility for Japan's wars of aggression and colonial rule. Toward this end, we ask that you first visit to the small memorial stone to Korean victims of the atomic bomb, [...] and make an apology there." 

"Inside Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park stands a monument dedicated to Korean victims of the bombing [...] We hope that the U.S. president will visit the monument as well to send an indirect warning to Japan for its wartime atrocities. If Obama is truly pursuing a nuclear-free world, he should also send a clear warning message to North Korea[.]" 

Additional Topics in the Asia Reacts to... Series

Secretary of State John Kerry's Historic Visit to Hiroshima
Donald Trump's Comments on Possible Nuclear Armament of Japan and South Korea
 Nominations of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump
Donald Trump's First Foreign Policy Speech 
 Secretary of Defense Ash Carter's Trip to India and the Philippines
 President Barack Obama's First Visit to Vietnam
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Fourth Visit to the United States
Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) Deployment
2016 Democratic and Republican National Conventions 
President Barack Obama's Final Trip to Asia
First Presidential Debate of the 2016 US Election 
 Second Presidential Debate of the 2016 US Election
Final Presidential Debate of the 2016 US Election
Election of Donald Trump as 45th President of the United States 
 President-Elect Donald Trump's Talks with Asian Leaders
The Inauguration of Donald J. Trump
 

Back to top