Aging Hiroshima A-bomb survivors want Obama visit

Thu Aug 5, 2010 2:26pm EDT
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By Yoko Kubota

HIROSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) - The Japanese city of Hiroshima, reduced to ashes by a U.S. nuclear bomb in 1945, holds its annual commemoration of that attack on Friday, but this will be the first year that a U.S. representative will take part.

U.S. officials announced that Ambassador John Roos would for the first time be among those marking the 65th anniversary of the bombing in the "Peace Memorial Park" -- near "ground zero," the spot where the bomb detonated in the western Japanese city.

Also taking part will be U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon -- the first head of the world body to do so.

Ban is also expected to back calls by a growing number of Japanese for President Barack Obama to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the two cities struck by nuclear attacks in 1945.

The atomic bomb was dropped by the U.S. B-29 warplane Enola Gay on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, setting the city ablaze and killing thousands instantly. By the end of the year, the toll had risen to 140,000 out of an estimated population of 350,000. Thousands died later of illness and injuries.

Three days after the Hiroshima attack, on August 9, the United States dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki, southern Japan. Japan surrendered six days later.

Hiroshima survivor Akihiro Takahashi, 79 and a former head of Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Museum, has been writing to Obama for almost two years, asking him to visit.

"I admire his position of aiming to abolish nuclear weapons," Takahashi, said as he lay in hospital after breaking a bone.   Continued...

<p>The gutted Atomic Bomb Dome is silhouetted in Hiroshima, western Japan August 5, 2009. REUTERS/Issei Kato</p>