Obama is expected to visit the site with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Photograph by Mark Wilson 2015 Getty Images
By Claire Zillman
April 22, 2016

This story has been updated to reflect comment from the White House.

More than 70 years after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima that led to the end of World War II, Barack Obama could become the first sitting president to visit the site to pay tribute to the tens of thousands of victims who died in the devastating blast.

According to the Nikkei Asian Review, which cited unnamed U.S. officials, Obama will visit Hiroshima alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe following a Group of 7 leaders summit that Japan is hosting in late May. A White House official told Fortune that no decision has been made.

President Jimmy Carter visited Hiroshima in 1984, after he’d left office. Secretary of State John Kerry became the highest-serving U.S. official to ever tour the city’s Peace Park and Museum when he did so earlier this month. He called the experience “gut-wrenching.” His visit there sparked speculation that Obama would soon follow.

 

Visiting the site of the nuclear blast has been something of a third-rail subject for sitting presidents who don’t want to appear apologetic for the U.S.’s decision to bomb Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and Nagasaki three days later. The blasts are thought to have sped up the end of the Second World War in the Pacific, but they instantly killed more than 100,000 people in Japan and are viewed by some there as an unjustified atrocity.

An Obama visit to Hiroshima could provide a sense of closure to the aging generation of Japanese people who were alive during the war and could deepen the alliance between the U.S. and Japan. It would also be an especially fitting event to mark Obama’s last months in office since his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, which he delivered not even a year into his presidency, championed nuclear disarmament.

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