John Kerry will on Monday be the first U.S. secretary of state to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, but a senior U.S. spokesperson said that the high-level Washington official does not intend to offer an apology for the United States' use of the atomic bomb against Japan during his visit.
Kerry is visiting the city, which was obliterated by a U.S. atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945, and will attend a gathering of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven, or G7, advanced economies that Japan opened on Sunday with a call to end nuclear weapons.
The U.S. diplomat is to join his counterparts from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan on Monday to tour the city's atomic bomb museum and to lay flowers at a cenotaph for its victims, becoming the first in his post to do so.
"If you are asking whether the secretary of state came to Hiroshima to apologize, the answer is no," a senior U.S. official told reporters late on Sunday.
"If you are asking whether the secretary and I think all Americans and all Japanese are filled with sorrow at the tragedies that befell so many of our countrymen, the answer is yes," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (3rd L) talks to Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (2nd L) during a ceremonial dance at the Itsukushima Shrine. | Photo: Reuters
Kerry's trip could pave the way for an unprecedented visit to Hiroshima by a sitting U.S. president when Barack Obama attends the annual G7 summit to be held in Japan next month.
While saying the White House has yet to make a decision, the senior U.S. official said Obama has shown he is willing to do controversial things such as visiting Havana last month.
The official suggested there was no "great or insurmountable angst about the optics or the politics of a visit to Hiroshima."
He also said there was no Japanese effort to seek a U.S. apology, "nor is there any interest in reopening the question of blame for the sequence of events that culminated in the use of the atomic bomb."