U.S. President Barack Obama will visit the Japanese city of Hiroshima later this month, making him the first sitting American president to do so since the U.S. dropped a nuclear bomb there to end World War II.
Obama will make the "historic visit" with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to "highlight his continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement.
The visit will take place on May 27 after Obama and other leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) countries hold talks May 26-27 in the city of Ise-Shima to "advance common interests across the full range of economic and security priorities," the White House said.
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said Obama will visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, dedicated to the victims of the atomic bombing, and share his reflections on the significance of the site and the events that occurred there, but he "will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II."
"Instead, he will offer a forward-looking vision focused on our shared future," Rhodes said. "This visit will offer an opportunity to honor the memory of all innocents who were lost during the war."
The visit will also symbolize how far the two countries have come in "building a deep and abiding alliance based on mutual interests, shared values, and an enduring spirit of friendship between our peoples," he said.
"The President and his team will make this visit knowing that the open recognition of history is essential to understanding our shared past, the forces that shape the world we live in today, and the future that we seek for our children and grandchildren," Rhodes said.
Whether Obama would visit Hiroshima on the sidelines of the G7 summit has been a focus of attention since Secretary of State John Kerry made a historic visit to the city earlier this month and said he would convey to Obama what he saw in Hiroshima and "how important it is at some point to try to get here."
Obama has sought to make the initiative for building a nuclear-free world a key legacy of his presidency, launching the Nuclear Security Summit of world leaders aimed at reducing the stockpile of fissile material and keeping it out of the hands of terrorists.
The fourth and last Nuclear Security Summit was held in Washington last month.
Japan is the second leg of Obama's trip to Asia, which also includes a visit to Vietnam, where he is scheduled hold talks with Vietnamese leaders, civil society members, business leaders and others to improve all-round cooperation between the two countries.
"This trip will highlight the president's ongoing commitment to the U.S. Rebalance to Asia and the Pacific, designed to increase U.S. diplomatic, economic, and security engagement with the countries and peoples of the region," Earnest said. (Yonhap)