A senior official of Japan's Foreign Ministry told the U.S. ambassador in Tokyo it would be premature for U.S. President Barack Obama to visit the atomic-bombed city of Hiroshima during his November 2009 trip to Japan, according to a secret U.S. cable recently released by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.The idea of apologizing for the atomic bombings has been a sore spot for me for a long time. We have nothing to apologize for. Those two bombs ended the war and prevented the invasion of the Japanese home islands which would have resulted in an estimated 1 million Allied casualties and as many as 5 or 6 million Japanese. The loses in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as bad as they were, were nothing compared to the human suffering and economic misery that would have accompanied a war that went on for another 3 or 4 years.
The cable indicates the Japanese government was then effectively discouraging Obama from visiting Hiroshima despite growing expectations over it following his call for a world free from nuclear weapons in a speech in Prague in April 2009.
The cable, dated Sept. 3, 2009, and sent to U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton, reported Japan's then Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka telling Ambassador John Roos on Aug. 28 that antinuclear groups would speculate over whether the president would visit Hiroshima in light of his Prague speech on nuclear nonproliferation.
"He underscored, however, that both governments must temper the public's expectations on such issues, as the idea of President Obama visiting Hiroshima to apologize for the atomic bombing during World War II is a 'non-starter'," said the cable.
It also quoted Yabunaka as saying, "While a simple visit to Hiroshima without fanfare is sufficiently symbolic to convey the right message, it is premature to include such program in the November visit."
Harry Truman made the right call.