Having a high-ranking representative visit the site of terrible tragedy between two former enemies in order to pay his respects demonstrates to the world how close the allies have become.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit this week to Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park is symbolic of the friendship between the two nations and the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance, Sasakawa USA’s Dr. Jeffrey Hornung said in an April 12 article in the Mainichi Shimbun.
Below is the English-language version of the interview:
“The visit by Secretary Kerry, who will become the highest-ranking American official to honor the victims of Hiroshima, symbolizes the strength of the alliance today. After all, having a high-ranking representative visit the site of terrible tragedy between two former enemies in order to pay his respects demonstrates to the world how close the allies have become. Importantly, given the onslaught of diatribes regarding Japan by Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, the gesture by the Obama Administration reminds the Japanese people of U.S. affinity for and trust in our Japanese ally. As heavily symbolic as this gesture is, however, people should not mistake this as something that would affect the Obama Administration’s policies.
“While there is a prevailing view in America that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and of Nagasaki helped to quickly end the war, and therefore justified, the U.S.-Japan alliance today has never been stronger. Just as there was no negative backlash emerging from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s speech to a joint session of Congress, there is unlikely to be any negative backlash following Secretary Kerry’s visit. Americans are able to distinguish between the tragic events of 70 years ago and the current trust and friendship we have with Japan. After all, Secretary Kerry is not going to Hiroshima to apologize for the bomb. If he were, that would probably be poorly received in the U.S., particularly by the current Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump. Instead, Secretary Kerry is simply visiting and paying his respects, like Ambassadors [John] Roos and [Caroline] Kennedy did previously. As such, I do not think it will have any negative impact on Democratic candidates. The only possible candidate who may choose to make this an issue is Donald Trump, given his vitriolic treatment of Japan. Otherwise, this is not a political issue given the objective of his visit.”
On the question of whether Prime Minister Abe would need to visit Pearl Harbor if Obama visits Hiroshima, Hornung said a quid-pro-quo would be unnecessary.
Whether or not Abe visits Pearl Harbor is entirely up to the Japanese government and should be decided independently of a Presidential visit to Hiroshima.
“Whether or not Abe visits Pearl Harbor is entirely up to the Japanese government and should be decided independently of a Presidential visit to Hiroshima. If he did, it would continue the theme of the Abe Administration of confronting lingering World War II issues. Like Secretary Kerry’s visit, and a possible President Obama visit, no one should expect Prime Minister Abe to make any outright apology for the Pearl Harbor attack. Instead, it would be to honor those who died during those dark days and repeat Japan’s official position of “deep remorse” to all those who had suffered “tremendous damage and suffering” that resulted from Imperial Japan’s aggression. In the U.S., such a visit would also yield little ill-will or controversy given the strong ties between the allies today and the very-much-weakened ill-feelings toward Japan of yesteryear.
“I think it would represent one of two symbolic bookends for the Obama Administration and its non-proliferation policy. The other, of course, is when President Obama spoke of his desire for a nuclear-free world in Prague in 2009. Even if President Obama visited, however, he is unlikely to apologize for the atomic bombing, nor is he likely to politicize the occasion to provide another speech on disarmament akin to 2009. Instead, beyond a gesture of friendship between two allies, it would be symbolic of his continued stated desire for nuclear disarmament and dovetail nicely with his focus on nuclear security, particularly following the recent Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.
“It is important, however, that Secretary Kerry will be joined by foreign ministers from other G7 countries, including Britain and France. Having high level representatives from states that possess nuclear weapons is symbolic, as well as testament to the strong relationships Japan has with each of these countries. Nobody should be fooled into thinking however, that visits by foreign ministers or executives will change these countries’ nuclear policies.”
Read the Japanese-language version of the interview on the Mainichi Shimbun website here.