TOKYO – A group representing Japanese survivors of U.S. atomic bombings urged President Barack Obama to hear their stories and apologize when he visits Hiroshima.
Two leaders of the Tokyo-based nationwide group told a news conference in Tokyo on Thursday that many survivors still want an apology though they have long avoided an outright demand for one out of fear that it would be counterproductive.
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Toshiki Fujimori, a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing, said he found it awkward to hear local and central government officials going over their heads to say they were not asking for an apology.
“I suspect there was a pressure (not to seek an apology) to create an atmosphere that would make it easier for Obama to visit Hiroshima,” Fujimori said. “But many of the survivors don’t think they can do without an apology at all.”
He said the survivors want Obama to know that their suffering is not limited to immediate damage and visible, physical scars. They also suffered discrimination at work, in marriage and in other parts of their lives, by their own people in Japan, he said.
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U.S. atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the World War II left killed more than 200,000 people and nearly destroyed the cities.
Obama will visit Hiroshima on May 27 after the Group of Seven summit in central Japan, becoming the first serving American president to do so.
Washington said he won’t apologize and a meeting with survivors is unlikely. Japan’s government had also told U.S. officials that it is not expecting an apology, according to Japanese and American officials.
That apparently prompted the survivors to remind him of their true feelings and expectations for his commitment to a nuclear-free world.
Terumi Tanaka, a survivor of the Nagasaki atomic bombing who serves Secretary-General of Japan Confederation of A and H Bomb Sufferers Organizations, said he only wished Obama to offer an apology for the survivors for what his wartime government had done to them.
“Families of the victims, those who lost their children. They deserve an apology and I really hope Mr. Obama will at least apologize to them,” he said.