Along with other foreign ministers of the G7 group of advanced economies, Kerry toured the memorial dedicated to the victims of the Hiroshima nuclear attack. Some 140,000 people were killed from direct harm and radioactive fallout from the American bomb dropped on August 6, 1945. A second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9 and claimed some 80,000 lives.
The highest-ranking US official to visit the memorial was then-Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi in 2008, but Kerry is the highest official from the executive branch and the only secretary of state to do so.
While Kerry wrote in the guestbook that “everyone in the world should see and feel the power of this memorial,” he did not offer a formal apology for the deaths caused by the bombings.
The majority of people in the US believe that the atomic attacks on Japan were justified because they sped up the country’s defeat and saved lives that would have been lost if the conflict had dragged on or if troops had been sent in. Another factor was that Soviet troops at the time were successfully advancing in Asia and Moscow could potentially have pushed on into Japan.
The majority of Japanese, however, say the bombings were not justified.
Kerry’s visit may pave the wave for the first-ever visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki of a sitting US president. Barack Obama is to attend the annual summit of G7 leaders in Japan in May.