In the fall of 2012, I met two Korean friends inside a coffeeshop in Jeju island, South Korea. The conversation was about peace and reconciliation between nearby countries. Korea was infamously under Japanese rule during WWII, from 1910-1945. When asked about the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima by the United States, my Korean friends still expressed empathy toward the Japanese people. They also quickly acknowledged the attack on Pearl Harbor. And as we read through facts and counterfactuals, we never once envisioned an apology from U.S officials for the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. And, quite frankly, I still don’t.
I’m an American. I’m anti-war. But I also understand that the complexities of the bombings (and the war) warrants considerable attention, from the Soviet invasion to unconditional surrender policy. Japanese death, according to Center for Strategic and International Studies, appeared in a series of events, not just one:
“By 1945, the bombing of civilians was already an established practice. In fact, the earlier U.S. firebombing campaign of Japan, which began in 1944, killed an estimated 315,922 Japanese, a greater number than the estimated deaths attributed to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The firebombing of Tokyo alone resulted in roughly 100,000 Japanese killed.”
Nevertheless, Harry S. Truman’s decision to the bomb, with the consent of the United Kingdom, ended the war. Whether it was the appropriate means to an end will always be debatable.
Secretary of State John Kerry was the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the Japanese site, a park and museum in memoriam of the Hiroshima victims, which also promotes peace and nuclear disarmament. President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima later this month–during his final participation of the G-7 summit–becoming the first sitting U.S. president to visit.
The visit is simply a way to bolster social and economic ties with the Japanese, to further advance the interests of U.S.-Japan alliance.
U.S Conservatives, however, will frame the trip by calling it yet another “Obama apology tour.” As NPR’s Greg Myre noted, Obama’s visit “would likely be well-received in Japan, though his visit would almost certainly bring criticism from conservative quarters in the U.S.”
According to the White House, though, Obama “will make an historic visit to Hiroshima with Prime Minister Abe to highlight his continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
I see no actual apology in sight, but I see peace and reconciliation. Perhaps that’s enough for us to envision for now.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park