(FOX 11) - Eager to heal old wounds and galvanize new generations, President Barack Obama will become the first sitting American president to visit Hiroshima, where seven decades ago the U.S. dropped the devastating atomic bomb that ushered in the nuclear age.
But in a sign of the extraordinary political sensitivities attached to the gesture, the White House has gone out of its way to stress Obama will not come bearing an apology.
"He will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II," deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes previously stated.
Instead, Obama will spotlight the toll of war and offer a "forward-looking vision" of a non-nuclear world.
Consulate General of Japan Harry Hidehisa Horinouchi appeared on Good Day LA Wednesday, who said the visit "is very much appreciated" by the Japanese people.
"Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is going to accompany the president during his visit to Hiroshima, and the two leaders will pay tribute to all of the victims," Horinouchi said. "And this time, the president’s visit will send a strong message to the world to realize a nuclear-free world. The people of Japan will truly appreciate it."
The U.S. attack on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, killed 140,000 people. A second bomb, dropped on Nagasaki three days later, killed 70,000. The bombings scarred generations of Japanese, both physically and mentally, but many Americans believe they hastened the end of World War II and saved countless other lives. Japan announced it would surrender on Aug. 15.
When asked if the Japanese people want an apology, the Consul General suggested people aren't necessarily expecting nor feel the need for an apology -- but rather hope for a common goal of a nuclear-free world.
"Many lives (were) lost to the nuclear bomb, and still, even today, many survivors are suffering from it. And their strong wish is that this tragedy never be repeated," he said. "This time, the president’s visit will show his determination to achieve the goal of a nuclear-free world."
He added: "We truly appreciate his visit. The Japanese people, including the people of Hiroshima, are looking forward to seeing him.”
In a NHK television poll this month, 70 percent of Japanese respondents said they wanted Obama to visit, compared to 2 percent against it.
Survivors, especially, have long been waiting. The number of survivors who are recognized as "hibakusha" and entitled to medical assistance from the Japanese government was more than 183,000 as of March. Their average age is now over 80.
"The day has finally come," said 91-year-old Sunao Tsuboi, a survivor of the bombing and head of a survivors group in the western Japanese city.
"We are not asking for an apology," Tsuboi told NHK. "All we want is to see him lay flowers at the peace park and lower his head in silence. This would be a first step toward abolishing nuclear weapons."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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