HIROSHIMA, Japan — Secretary of State John F. Kerry will focus on the vision of a nuclear-free future while he is here and will not apologize for the atomic bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War II, killing 140,000 people, a U.S. official said Sunday.
Kerry arrived in Hiroshima on Sunday morning to attend a meeting of foreign ministers of the Group of Seven countries, who discussed the war in Syria and the refugee crisis sweeping Europe. On Monday, the diplomats will go as a group to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and lay a wreath at an altar commemorating the conflagration.
Later in the day, he is expected to comment on the experience of visiting the museum, which vividly depicts the bombing’s effect on the city and its inhabitants.
A State Department official, speaking with reporters who are accompanying Kerry, said that the secretary of state will not specifically apologize for the bombs that the United States dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki but that he will address the human dimensions.
“If you’re asking whether the secretary of state came to Hiroshima to apologize, the answer is no,” said the official, speaking anonymously under rules for briefing reporters. “If you’re asking whether the secretary and I think all Americans and all Japanese are filled with sorrow at the tragedies that befell so many of our countrymen, the answer is yes.”
Schoolchildren will be on hand to witness the wreath-laying ceremony after the museum tour.
The event is not window dressing, the official said. “The strong view of the Japanese and the strong view of the United States is that any visit to Hiroshima should be a forward-looking visit,” he said. “Our collective focus is on the world we’re trying to create, not the world we have left behind.”
No decision has been made about whether President Obama will visit Hiroshima next month when he comes to Japan for a meeting with leaders of the G-7 countries. White House officials are carefully looking at the reception of Kerry’s visit, and it is expected to play a role in their decision. But the official suggested there are no fundamental obstacles.
“The issue of whether or not a senior U.S. government official has the fortitude, whatever it takes, to come to Hiroshima has been answered circa 7 o’clock this morning when John F. Kerry came to Hiroshima,” the official said. “This is not a huge, let alone an insurmountable, problem for the United States.”