America’s ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, attended the annual memorial service, remembering that day 69 years ago when the US dropped an atomic bomb on the city.
It’s unusual for the American ambassador to attend the memorial. Kennedy’s appearance marks only the 4th time a US ambassador has taken part.
Ms. Kennedy did not give a speech or lay a wreath at the ceremony, according to the city of Hiroshima. “This is a day for somber reflection and a renewed commitment to building a more peaceful world,” the ambassador said in a statement released by the U.S. Embassy.
As the only country to have suffered atomic bomb attacks, Japan “has the obligation to realize a world without nuclear weapons,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in his speech during the ceremony in Hiroshima. Mr. Abe also pledged that Japan will continue to ban production, possession or permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons in the country.
Although Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui did not touch on Mr. Abe’s efforts to revise Japan’s constitution, he kept the government in check by mentioning in his speech that the country has enjoyed 69 years of peace thanks to the document’s “sublime pacifism.”
Following the ceremony, representatives of atomic bombing victims met with Mr. Abe and requested that his cabinet withdraw its decision to pursue the right to collective self-defense.
The prime minister replied that the government’s intention is to provide peace and protect the lives of the Japanese public. He explained that the change is not meant to enable Japan to participate in war.
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The ceremony, attended by approximately 45,000 people, began at 8 a.m. An additional 5,507 people were added to the registers of names of fallen atomic bomb victims, bringing the total number to 292,325.
Those present at the ceremony held a minute of silence at 8:15 a.m., the time the atomic bomb was dropped on the city. The attack caused the deaths of approximately 140,000 people in Hiroshima by the end of 1945. Another 70,000 people died in Nagasaki three days later due to the second U.S. atomic bombing on Japan.
Ms. Kennedy is also expected to attend the ceremony of the atomic bombings in Nagasaki on Aug. 9.
Abe’s decision to revise the Japanese constitution isn’t as controversial as it would have been a few years ago. Many Japanese realize that their nation cannot put total reliance on America for its defense anymore. The point was driven home by China’s recent aggressiveness in the South China Sea and America’s tepid response.
The Hiroshima ceremony is non-political, but Kennedy’s presence has made waves both here and in Japan. Many Japanese believe it inappropriate that a representative from the country that inflicted mass destruction on their homeland should attend the memorial. Some Americans believe that a high ranking US official attending the ceremony is tantamount to endorsing the Japanese view that dropping the bombs were unnecessary.
Perhaps it’s time to move on for both countries. Japanese vets regularly attend the Pearl Harbor memorial service every December 7, as our vets return the gesture on August 6 in Hiroshima. If the war’s fighting men can reconcile over the two great horrors of that war, perhaps both countries can as well.