Obama’s imprudent visitWashington and Tokyo made it official. The two governments jointly announced that U.S. President Barack Obama will visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on May 27 after attending the Group of Seven summits in Iseshima, Mie Prefecture. Obama is expected to pay tribute to the victims of the atomic bomb during World War II and express his visions for a nuclear-free world in a speech or statement. His visit to Hiroshima follows Secretary of State John Kerry’s first trip to the city as incumbent state secretary.
Japan is the only nation which experienced the formidable power of nuclear weapons. The two bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 killed 210,000 citizens at once. Among them are about 20,000 Koreans. Even though the bombs could end the Pacific War, controversies over the legitimacy of the attack continue. But there is no dispute in that Japan invited the nuclear attack, as it waged its imperialistic war as the perpetrator, not a victim.
Yet Japan is accelerating its move toward a strong military power without sincere remorse or apology for its past wrongdoings. The country has not only transformed into a normal state capable of war in the name of a collective self-defense, but also tries to shake off the constraints of the peace constitution. As Obama’s visit can give a misleading signal to Korea, China and other neighbors by consolidating the image of Japan as victim, his visit is deemed impatient and regretful.
The White House drew a line by saying his visit does not mean an apology for the atomic bomb attack. Obama will avoid words or phrases, which could be misunderstood, as much as possible. But the Japanese people will most likely accept his visit as an apology. The media have already attached historic significance to the trip. Tokyo and the Japanese press must restrain from attaching excessive meanings to the visit.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to put the Tokyo-Washington alliance on a new level through Obama’s visit to Hiroshima and his subsequent visit to the Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Abe could gain some political scores from them. Obama also decided to visit Hiroshima to protect U.S. interests amid China’s increasing prowess in Asia. But Obama could end up dancing to Abe’s tunes. Both leaders must understand they cannot conclude the postwar system without Japan’s transparent regret and apology over the past.
North Korea’s dash toward a nuclear state brings dark clouds to the Korean Peninsula. We hope Obama’s speech in Hiroshima includes clear visions for the denuclearization of the peninsula.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 12, Page 30