The United States President, Barack Obama has made it clear he will not be apologising for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, when he visits on Friday.
But are Japanese people even asking him to?
Eleven United States presidents have been elected since President Harry S. Truman decided to drop an atomic weapon on Hiroshima, and none has set foot in that traumatized city in the 71 years since, at least not while in office.
President Obama intends to end that streak with his visit on Friday, a decision that speaks volumes not only about his presidency but also about the increasingly worrisome struggle among powers great and small in East Asia.
Mr. Obama’s predecessors had good reasons to avoid Hiroshima. None wanted to be seen by American voters as apologizing for a decision that many historians even today believe, on balance, saved lives.
And there were worries about how such a visit would be viewed in China, South Korea and other countries in Asia that suffered from the brutal World War II killing machine that was Imperial Japan.
President Obama in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Monday. Mr. Obama this week lifted a decades-old embargo on military sales. He will visit Hiroshima, Japan, on Friday, where the United States dropped an atomic bomb 71 years ago.
But Mr. Obama and his closest aides have become increasingly disdainful of what they view as Washington’s conventional wisdom.
No American president had visited Cuba in nearly 90 years. Mr. Obama did. None had visited Myanmar. He has gone twice. Few saw merit in negotiating with Iran’s autocratic mullahs. Mr. Obama struck a nuclear deal with the Iranians that he ranks among his greatest accomplishments. And in Vietnam this week, he lifted a decades-old embargo on military sales.
Mr. Obama has made clear that he will not apologize for the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but with no election left for himself he cares far less that any remorse he expresses might be included in what opponents have caricatured as an “apology tour” of foreign cities.