Without apologising, Obama paid tribute to Hiroshima victims and called for a world without nukes
Hiroshima: Two men who suffered horrific injuries in the world's first nuclear strike seven decades ago came face-to-face yesterday with the present-day commander-in-chief of the country that launched the attack. And one of them got a hug.
Overwhelmed: US President Barack Obama hugs Shigeaki Mori, a survivor of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, during a visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park yesterday. Pic/AFP
Shigeaki Mori (79) appeared overwhelmed as he shook hands with US President Barack Obama after a ceremony in Hiroshima.
"The president gestured as if he was going to give me a hug, so we hugged," Mori said of the embrace. That very human moment between an old man and one of the world's most powerful people came after Obama delivered a soaring speech that touched on the horrors of the American atomic bomb that obliterated Hiroshima.
"71 years ago, on a bright cloudless morning death fell from the sky and the world was changed," the president said at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, as he became the first sitting US leader to visit the site.
Obama's remarks expressed sadness and regret but stopped short of an apology. In the museum's guest book, the president wrote that he hoped the world will "find the courage, together, to spread peace, and pursue a world without nuclear weapons".
The bomb "demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself". "Why did we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in the not so distant past. We come to mourn the dead," he said. "Their souls speak to us, they ask us to look inward, take stock of who we are," he said.
"We stand here, in the middle of this city and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell. We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see. We listen to a silent cry."
The number of people killed in Hiroshima A-bomb attack on August 6, 1945
The number of people killed in Nagasaki, three days later
Obama is the first sitting president to visit Hiroshima as it was only after the end of former president Jimmy Carter's term (1977-1981) that he visited Hiroshima in May 1984.