President Biden was 2 years old when the nuclear age opened with an explosion of devastation the likes of which the world had never seen. Seventy-eight years later, he came to ground zero of the first atomic bomb used in the war to pay tribute to the dead on Friday.
Mr. Biden and other world leaders met privately with a survivor, toured a museum, laid a wreath at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and planted a tree. When the mayor of the city described the memorial, the President took a solemn look at the memorial to the victims of the atomic bomb. But the president did not comment on what he saw, an apology some Japanese still want the United States to provide.
Mr. Biden’s visit came at a critical moment in the nuclear age with “the possibility of Armageddon,” as he described it. Greater than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has ominously hinted that he may yet unleash nuclear weapons to defend his escalating invasion of Ukraine. And instead of moving away from the type of destruction represented by Hiroshima, the world is building more such weapons and placing fewer restrictions on their proliferation.
“I am very concerned that we are going in the wrong direction, that we are less secure, and I am concerned that we will see the use of nuclear weapons in our lifetime,” said John B. Wolfstall, former arms control adviser to President Barack Obama and Now a senior advisor to Global Zero, a group that advocates for the abolition of nuclear weapons. “So for me, the importance of going to Hiroshima is not just about symbolism, but using the legacy of Hiroshima to remind people that these weapons are destructive and should never be used again.”
A visit to the Hiroshima memorial serves as a symbolic opening to the meeting of this year’s Group of 7 summit of major industrial democracies, where The war in Ukraine will be a major topic of discussion, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is hosting the gathering and represents Hiroshima in parliament, hoped to highlight efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons
The Japanese Foreign Ministry said in a statement, “Through their visit to the Peace Memorial Park, the G7 leaders deepened their understanding of the reality of the atomic bombings and joined in consoling the souls of the lost. ” “The G7 leaders reiterated their position that threats of nuclear weapon use by Russia, let alone its use, are unacceptable.”
But no major new initiative appeared in the works to achieve that goal; If anything, nuclear proliferation has only increased in recent years. Russia recently suspended its last major nuclear arms control treaty With the United States, the New START agreement that limits weapons and delivery systems. North Korea has expanded its own nuclear arsenal Diplomatic attempts to persuade it to reverse have failed. Mr. Biden’s effort to revive Mr. Obama’s accord with Iran, which aimed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, nearly collapsed. and the Pentagon has warned China can more than double its nuclear stockpileUp to 1,000 ordnance by 2030.
America’s mission to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons has always been complicated by its history of introducing them into modern warfare. “The United States is the only country in the world to have used nuclear weapons twice, destroying the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and is setting an example,” Mr Putin said last fall over eastern parts of Ukraine. Said while capturing.
The matter has always been a delicate one in Japanese-American relations as well. Mr Obama becomes the first US President to visit Hiroshimain 2016, but he refused to apologize for the bombing, which could provoke criticism among Americans back home, citing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into World War II.
Instead, Mr. Obama, who made global nuclear disarmament a long-term goal, used his visit to “outline his vision for a future that does not see Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the beginning of a nuclear war but as the beginning of our known as.” own moral awakening” – a notion that seems further from reality seven years later.
On August 6, 1945, a B-29 Superfortress named Enola Gay dropped the Little Boy atomic bomb on Hiroshima. explosion generated heat Nearly 14,000 degrees Fahrenheit by one count and destroyed or damaged 60,000 of the city’s 90,000 buildings; An estimated 140,000 people were killed, most of whom were civilians. A second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later. Within a week, Japan had announced that it would surrender, bringing an end to the deadliest war in human history.
Since then President Harry S. Debate raged over Truman’s decision to use the newly developed weapon without much apparent warning or demonstration, a decision which the military-dominated leadership in Tokyo considered the best way to force the United States to surrender without goes. States to conduct a bloody amphibious invasion of the home islands.
Hiroshima has long been built into a vibrant city of 1.2 million and a manufacturing center known for heavy industries such as automobiles, steel and shipbuilding. The bustling shopping area and the lush, tree-lined parklands give little of the legacy of its death. The progress of time has left fewer hibakusha, as the survivors are known.
Arms Control Association executive director Daryl G. Kimball said how that legacy can be translated into reducing the risk of a new Hiroshima “will be the most important legacy of this G7 summit” but it will require active engagement from the president.
“Preventing an arms race, proliferation and nuclear war is a global effort,” Mr. Kimball said. “But history shows that there is no substitute for American leadership in reducing nuclear threats, and there is no better time than now for President Biden to outline his plan for nuclear risk reduction and renewing disarmament diplomacy Is.”