The Obama administration announced plans Wednesday to send the U.S. ambassador to Japan to participate in the 65th anniversary ceremony of the American atomic bombing of Hiroshima. This will be the first time a high level American official has attended the event.
Ambassador John Roos is expected to place wreath at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in commemoration of the Japanese who died in the bombing, which along with the atomic bombing on the Japanese city of Nagasaki several days later, helped contribute to the Japanese decision to surrender during World War II. American officials have avoided attending the event purposefully in the past, maintaining the attacks were necessary to end the war and therefore justified.
Michael Auslin, the director of Japanese Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller that from a historical perspective, as an event falls further back in time it is easier to analyze and move past emotion.
“Both the U.S. and Japan are keen to reaffirm the unique alliance they now share,” he said. “When you have that type of relationship in which the two partners share so many common views of the international system then I think you can decide to recognize some of the more painful aspects of the past relationship.”
While this decision may perpetuate the president’s reputation as the “apologizer-in-chief,” there is some speculation that the ambassador’s attendance is meant to bolster the anti-nuclear pledge the president made in Prague on April 2009. “I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” Obama said. “It will take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist: ‘Yes, we can.'”
Japan has been very vocal about their desire for a nuclear free world, thereby complementing and affirming the Obama agenda. Obama reiterated that promise on his last trip to Japan in November — the one during which he famously bowed to the Japanese Emperor and Empress.
Auslin said that though the attendance might have been expedited due to Obama’s political agenda, it would eventually have happened anyway. “There is no handbook for this and there is going to be a lot of questioning as to whether this was the right thing. People are going to be watching very closely to see what the ambassador says, if anything,” Auslin said. “I am in touch with friends at the State Department and people who work on this issue. They are still trying to figure out the details, really nobody knows how this is going to play out.”
Gary Schmitt, director of Advanced Strategic Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, told TheDC that sending a high level representative to the ceremony risks affirming Japan’s view that America was in the wrong.
“The key question is, does the ambassador’s presence change the traditional Japanese rhetoric?” Schmitt said. “If it doesn’t, then the ambassador’s presence will just reinforce the Japanese view that what we did was morally reprehensible, when in fact it was strategically sound and saved millions of lives, American and Japanese.”