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President Obama, please come to Hiroshima

If we whisper plaintively, "Please will you come, please will you come," it will likely have the opposite effect, making it more difficult for our invitee to make the hoped-for historic appearance. So while I understand this very Japanese delicacy and sensitivity, let me be direct; blunt, even:

    President Barack Obama, please come to Hiroshima. Come without fail.

    And when you are there, lend your ears to the stories of the survivors. Take in that atomic-bombed city with every one of your five senses. That is what I want. And I ask that you do these things when you come to Japan for the Ise-Shima Group of Seven (G-7) summit in May this year.

    Perhaps I'm being presumptuous. I am, after all, nothing but an obscure newspaper reporter. However, when I was posted to this paper's Washington bureau, on visits to the Department of Defense I would often look at the old American newspapers hung on a wall near the press briefing room. One of them was a front page from August 1945, trumpeting the destruction of 60 percent of a Japanese city (Hiroshima) with just a single bomb. Rather than conveying the utter horror of that event, I thought the article portrayed the atomic attack as a military victory.

    There is a real difference in Japanese and American thinking there. The U.S. believes the bombing ended World War II more quickly, that while it burned the heart out of Hiroshima it also saved countless lives. President Obama, you yourself have not let that argument lie undisturbed. In 2009, you advocated a world without nuclear arms. In 2012, you said that the U.S. has a "moral obligation" to lead world nuclear disarmament as "the only nation ever to use nuclear weapons." Those words were truly wonderful.

    Mr. President, the philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr -- a man you have said you admire -- wrote in his 1952 work "The Irony of American History": "Could there be a clearer tragic dilemma than that which faces our civilization? Though confident of its virtue, it must yet hold atomic bombs ready for use so as to prevent a possible world conflagration. It may actually make the conflict the more inevitable by this threat; and yet it cannot abandon the threat." A "tragic dilemma" indeed.

    In 2007, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and three other American elder statesmen signed a joint appeal for the abolishment of atomic weapons. With the Cold War over, there was no longer any need for nuclear deterrence, and the growing possibility that a warhead may find its way into terrorist hands made the terrible devices far too dangerous to keep, the four men wrote. These thoughts were built on at the Nuclear Security Summit held just days ago in Washington. There is no other way to truly save our species than to completely abolish nuclear arms.

    There are, however, ever greater forces pushing in the opposite direction. Memories of the Cold War, when nuclear-armed powers rose to predominance, have given rise to countries determined to develop such weapons themselves, like North Korea. What's more, last year Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was readying his country's nuclear arsenal. Then, at a conference last year to try and rekindle Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) treaty talks, China slammed Japan's call on world leaders to visit the two nuclear bombed cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, condemning Japan for playing the part of a war victim.

    Japan is the only country in the world to have suffered a nuclear attack. The average age of the survivors is over 80. To say that it's historical revisionism for these people to tell their stories is in itself revisionist. Ah yes, and there is also a famous individual from the United States calling for Japan and South Korea to acquire their own nuclear arsenals. The historical moment for nuclear disarmament is fading, and the world continues to drift on dangerous currents.

    That's why it is so significant that the G-7 foreign ministers will lay flowers in Hiroshima. I believe that the American people will understand if you, too, visit Hiroshima. They will understand because a presidential visit would not be about our two nations' past, but about how to deal with the atomic threat faced by all humanity.

    Mr. President, use a visit to Hiroshima to somehow shift our species from the dangerous course we find ourselves on. I am ill-mannered, and I beg your patience for my presumptuous words. But I truly and deeply believe that the road to a nuclear weapons-free world must pass through the cities scorched by atomic fire. (By Hiroshi Fuse, Editorial Writer and Expert Senior Writer)

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