Historic visit: G7 leaders honor atomic bomb victims in Hiroshima

G7 leaders pay historic visit to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Park
(L-R) European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, US President Joe Biden, and Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida walk to a flower wreath laying ceremony at the Cenotaph for Atomic Bomb Victims in the Peace Memorial Park as part of the G7 Hiroshima Summit in Hiroshima, Japan, 19 May 2023. EFE/EPA/FRANCK ROBICHON / POOL

The G7 leaders visited the Hiroshima Peace Museum and Park (western Japan) on Friday, in a historic visit aimed at sending a strong message against nuclear weapons.

The leaders of Japan,  GermanyCanadaFranceItaly, the United Kingdom and the United States participated in this visit before the formal start of the 49th summit of the Group of Seven that will be held from this Friday until May 21 in the Japanese city, the first to be attacked with a nuclear weapon in 1945.

The Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, was receiving each of the leaders and took photos in front of a view of the cenotaph in memory of the victims of the atomic bomb, where the name of all of them is preserved and an epitaph in Japanese appears which ensures that the horror experienced will not be repeated.

On the horizon behind this sculpture, you could also see the Flame of Peace, which has been burning since 1964, and the Atomic Bomb Dome, a building that was left with its metal skeleton completely exposed after the bombing.

Biden was 3 years old

The last president to arrive was the US president, Joe Biden, who was three years old when the US dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, and who walked slowly with Kishida to the museum, whose surroundings are now closed to the public with a heavy police presence. in the zone.

Biden arrived dressed in black and together with the first lady of the United States, Jill Biden, also in black and who had what appeared to be a white crane clinging to the suit of his jacket, an important symbol for peace in this Japanese city.

All the leaders paraded along a red carpet, which several operatives proceeded to roll up once they entered the museum.

After the visit to the museum, which according to local media would have lasted about 30 minutes and where the leaders could have signed the visitors’ book and met with a hibakusha  -survivor-, the leaders went in front of the cenotaph and several high school students handed out some crowns of what appeared to be white lilies and roses.

Afterward, they all laid down the flower arrangements and French President Emmanuel Macron addressed Kishida twice and patted him on the back, while they all paid their respects silently and with a bow.

The mayor of Hiroshima, Kazumi Matsui, then gave the leaders a tour showing various elements of the Peace Park, such as the flame or the dome, an explanation that the British leader, Rishi Sunak, and the Italian Prime Minister listened to with special emotion. , Giorgia Meloni, while Biden remained serious.

Biden is the second US president to visit the Peace Museum and Park after Barack Obama did in 2016, who gave a moving speech discussing the costs of war and the importance of ending guns. nuclear.

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 “hibakusha” (as those who survived the attack are known in Japan) became a symbol of reconciliation between the two countries.

does not ask for forgiveness

The White House national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, has already told reporters aboard Air Force One that Biden was also not planning to apologize for the nuclear bombings, which the United States believes were necessary to hasten Japan’s surrender during the Second World War.

The visit, which takes place hours before the start of the summit, marks the first time that the G7 leaders have visited the museum together. During his stay in 2016, Obama entered the Peace Museum but stayed at the entrance for a visit that lasted a total of about 10 minutes.

Then, Obama donated to the Hiroshima Peace 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 consumed by leukemia in 1955 because of the atomic bombing.

Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, said that this memorial space “shows the painful memory of death” and called to “make sure this never happens again” during a press conference held shortly before the visit.

Enola Gay

Hiroshima was devastated on Aug. 6, 1945, when the Enola Gay plane dropped the first nuclear bomb used in actual combat, dubbed “Little Boy,” on the city, precipitating Japan’s surrender and the end of World War II.

This bomb immediately killed some 80,000 people, about 30% of the population at the time. At the end of 1945, the balance rose to about 140,000 and in the following years the number of victims due to the effects of radiation added more than double.