G7 leaders pay historic visit to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Park
Hiroshima, Japan, May 19 (EFE).- The leaders of the Group of Seven countries on Friday visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Park in a historic visit aimed at sending a firm message against the use of nuclear weapons.
The leaders of Japan, Germany, Canada, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the European Commission, visited the memorial ahead of the formal start of the 49th summit of the G7 that will run until Sunday in the Japanese city, which in 1945 became the first city to be attacked with an atomic bomb.
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida received each of the leaders, who had their photos taken in front of a backdrop of the cenotaph where the names of victims of the bombing are inscribed.
Behind this sculpture, the Flame of Peace, which has been burning since 1964, and the Atomic Bomb Dome, the ruins of a bombed building, are seen.
The last leader to arrive was US President Joe Biden, who was three years old when the US dropped its nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. Dressed in black, he walked slowly with Kishida to the museum, the area around which was closed to the public with a strong police presence.
After the visit to the museum, which according to local media lasted about 30 minutes and where the leaders signed the visitors’ book and met with a survivor, they went to front of the cenotaph and high school students delivered wreaths of what appeared to be lilies and white roses.
Afterwards, they all laid their wreaths, paying their respects silently with a bow.
Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui then gave the leaders a tour of elements of the Peace Park, such as the flame and the dome, with a speech that the British leader Rishi Sunak and the Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni listened to with special emotion, while Biden remained solemn.
Biden is the second US president to visit the Peace Memorial Museum and Park after Barack Obama in 2016, who gave a moving speech about the costs of war and the importance of ending nuclear weapons.
Obama did not go so far as to apologize for the massacre, as claimed by survivors of the bombing and other Japanese voices, but his embrace of a survivor became a symbol of reconciliation between the two countries.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan had already told reporters aboard Air Force One that Biden was also not planning to apologize for the nuclear bombings during World War II.
The visit marks the first time that the G7 leaders have visited the museum together. Obama entered the Peace Museum but stayed at the entrance for a visit that lasted about 10 minutes.
At that time, Obama donated to the museum four paper cranes, considered in Japan a symbol of peace and reconstruction, and popularized by Sadako Sasaki, a girl who moved the world in her attempt to make 1,000 paper cranes before dying of leukemia in 1955 at age 12 due to the atomic bombing.
European Council President Charles Michel called on leaders to make sure such incidents never happen again.
Hiroshima was devastated on Aug. 6, 1945, when the Enola Gay Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber dropped the first nuclear bomb used in warfare, dubbed “Little Boy,” on the city, forcing Japan’s surrender and the end of World War II.
The bombing killed some 80,000 people, about 30 percent of the population at the time, but by the end of 1945, the total had risen to about 140,000. In the following years the victims killed due to the effects of radiation more than doubled the figure. EFE