President Obama on Friday called for a world without nuclear weapons during the first-ever visit to Hiroshima by a sitting U.S. president, almost 71 years after U.S. forces dropped a devastating atomic bomb on the city.
“Death fell from the sky and the world was changed,” Obama said during a solemn speech at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, dedicated to the victims of the world’s first nuclear strike.
The president did not apologize for the U.S.’s decision to use atomic weapons to end World War II.
Instead he told an audience, which included survivors of the attack, that the horror of nuclear warfare should spark nations to reconsider their use of the weapons.
“That is a future we can choose,” Obama said, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe standing at his side. “A future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.”
Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize during the first years of his presidency in part because of his pledge to pursue a world without nuclear weapons. But much of his agenda remains unfulfilled.
The president looked to a future where the danger of nuclear warfare is greatly reduced.
“We may not eliminate mankind’s capacity to do evil,” he said. “But among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.”
The bombing of Hiroshima flattened almost the entire city, and the death toll eventually rose to 140,000 people. A bomb second bomb fell on the city of Nagasaki three days later
Obama’s visit to Hiroshima was heavy with symbolism.
He laid a wreath at the peace park in the shadow of an iconic bombed-out domed building and, in an emotional moment, he greeted two survivors of the blast following his speech.
Obama hugged Shigeaki Mori, an atomic bomb survivor who created a memorial for American prisoners of war who were killed at Hiroshima.
The president also left an inscription in a guest book at the peace park.
"We have known the agony of war. Let us now find the courage, together, to spread peace, and pursue a world without nuclear weapons."