President Barack Obama will become the first sitting American president to visit the site of the U.S. atomic bomb attack in Hiroshima, Japan, later this month, the White House said Tuesday.
Added to the end of a late-May Asia swing, the visit fulfills a wish Obama expressed early in his presidency to visit the charged location where tens of thousands of Japanese civilians were killed in a nuclear blast at the end of World War II.
Weighing the visit, White House officials faced a careful balance of whether Obama’s presence would amount to an apology for using nuclear weapons, a move many historians consider essential to ending the war.
The White House has said the United States does not owe Japan a formal apology for using the atomic bomb in August 1945. But officials say the visit will serve as a reminder the terrible destruction that nuclear weapons can inflict.
“He will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II,” Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, wrote on Medium Tuesday. “Instead, he will offer a forward-looking vision focused on our shared future.”