by Ambra Visentin
The Japanese Prime Minister calls on the world leaders meeting in Hiroshima until 21 May to ban atomic weapons. In addition to urging Moscow not to use nuclear weapons, Japan wants the major powers to tackle the issue of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation head-on.
Hiroshima, a major port in the south-east of the country, is the chosen venue for the Summit. The city has a tragic record as the first target to be hit by an atomic bomb, on 6 August 1946. An estimated 70,000 residents died immediately, rising from 70,000 to around 80,000 in the following months. “As the world becomes more bipolar, it is important to know the reality of the atomic bombing,” says Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui, who hopes that world leaders will reflect on their efforts to keep the memory of Hiroshima alive. Hopes that are unlikely to be fulfilled.
Indeed, during the G7 there will be much talk of war (in Ukraine) and possible wars (Taiwan), leaving little room for the messages of peace that Kishida wants to convey. In this context, Joe Biden’s refusal to apologise for the dropping of the atomic bomb takes on even more symbolic significance for the future of nuclear weapons and the increasingly distant prospects for world peace.
Biden is only the second US president to visit Hiroshima, after Barack Obama in May 2016. During his historic visit, Obama promoted a world without nuclear weapons and met with survivors of the nuclear disaster. Obama did not apologise for dropping the bomb. Nor should Biden have. Many Americans still see the nuclear attack as justified, believing it led to the surrender of Japan and the end of World War II.
Awareness-raising and activism to keep alive the memory of this terrible moment in history and its aftermath has been based on the mobilisation of the ‘hibakusha’, the survivors of the bombing. Today, however, there are only 110,000 survivors, with an average age of 86. The city is therefore looking for new ways to remember. The Peace Memorial Museum has been renovated to make the visit more moving and more international, with an emphasis on foreign victims, whether from Korea, Southeast Asia or the United States.