The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty’s 190 member countries in May adopted a plan to speed up arms reductions and take further steps toward banning nuclear arms in the Middle East.
The nuclear treaty recognizes five atomic-weapon states — the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China. India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea have also developed nuclear weapons but are not party to the treaty.
Independent analysts estimate the current total world stockpile of nuclear warheads at more than 22,000 — less than a third the number at the peak of the Cold War in the 1980s but still enough for more than 100,000 Hiroshimas.
In May, Washington acknowledged a total stockpile of 5,113 nuclear warheads as of September 2009, down 75 percent from 1989. The U.S. and Russia in April agreed to shrink the limit on a specific type of long-range warheads to 1,550 for each country, down about a third from the current ceiling.
Washington’s decision to attend the anniversary has been welcomed by Japan‘s government, but has generated complex feelings among some Japanese who see the 1945 bombing as unjustified and want the United States to apologize.
“I’m not sure if I would welcome President Obama here,” said Katsuki Fujii, a 20-year-old college student. “I don’t think we have the same idea what peace is. He seems to think some wars are good and some are bad — I think they are all bad.”
About 140,000 people were killed or died within months when the American B-29 “Enola Gay” bombed Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. Three days later, about 80,000 people died after the United States also bombed Nagasaki.
Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, ending World War II. To this day, the bombings remain the only time nuclear weapons have been unleashed.
The United States decided to drop the bombs because Washington believed it would hasten the end of the war and avert the need to wage prolonged and bloody land battles on Japan‘s main island. That concern was heightened by Japan‘s desperate efforts to control outlying islands such as Iwo Jima and Okinawa as the Allies closed in.
Concerns that attending the anniversary ceremony would reopen old wounds had kept the U.S. away until this year.
Former President Jimmy Carter visited Hiroshima’s Peace Museum in 1984, years after he was out of office. The highest-ranking American to visit while in office is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who went in 2008. Mr. Roos also visited Hiroshima soon after assuming his post last year.
The State Department deemed the time was right to do so, and it was a chance to push Mr. Obama’s own goal of nuclear disarmament.
At Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, where Friday’s ceremony was held, leftist groups in trucks blared anti-U.S. slogans to the crowds.
“The bombing of Hiroshima was totally unnecessary,” said one group. “U.S., take your nukes and go home.”