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President Obama on Friday visited Hiroshima, which was devastated when the U.S. dropped the atom bomb on it in 1945. Obama joined Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in paying solemn tribute to the tens of thousands who died in the strike and met with survivors. He offered no apologies but renewed his call for nuclear disarmament. Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports.
President Obama went today where none of his predecessors had gone while in office: Hiroshima, Japan. He sought to navigate between honoring the victims, and standing by the U.S. atomic bombings that left 130,000 dead, and led to the end of World War II.
The nuclear bomb that destroyed Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, changed Japan and the world forever; 70,000 people were killed instantly. By year's end, another 70,000 were dead from radiation poisoning.
The city was flattened, apart from a one domed building, now known as the Atomic Bomb Dome. It stands as a reminder of the first-ever atomic attack on a human population and as a symbol of peace.
President Obama solemnly paid his respects there today. And with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he laid a wreath at the nearby Hiroshima Peace Memorial.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
We stand here in the middle of this city and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell. We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see. We listen to a silent cry.
Three days after Hiroshima, a second atomic bomb killed 70,000 more in Nagasaki. The U.S. did it to bring a quicker end to World War II.
The president offered no apology today, but renewed his call for abolishing nuclear weapons.
Among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear, and pursue a world without them. We may not realize this goal in my lifetime, but persistent effort can hold back the possibility of catastrophe.
In an emotional moment afterward, Mr. Obama greeted survivors of the Hiroshima bombing. Other survivors joined the crowds lining his motorcade route. Fewer than 83,000 are still alive.
WOMAN (through interpreter):
I'm very happy to see him visiting here. He has sent out a message for peace in the past, and today he is putting his words into practice.
AKIRA KONDO, Hiroshima Survivor (through interpreter):
It would have been much better if a U.S. president could have made the visit earlier. It took 71 years. I think it could have happened earlier.
A younger generation brought its own perspective to the visit.
His visit to Hiroshima means a lot, because it's a step forward from all the conciliatory rhetoric we have traded so far.
But there've also been protests in the day's leading up to the visit and demands for an apology.
MAN (through interpreter):
Of course he will not apologize, simply, because, if he does, the U.S. cannot use the nuclear weapon again. I believe he's not apologizing here to leave the possibility to use nuclear weapons open for the future.
Even before his election at a 2008 speech in Berlin, Germany, Mr. Obama embraced the opposite goal.
This is the moment when we must renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.
Yet now the Defense Department is in the midst of a sweeping upgrade of its nuclear arsenal. The plan is to spend $1 trillion over the next three decades on new nuclear submarines, bombers and weapons themselves.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Margaret Warner.
We will look at the nuclear threat in the world today after the news summary.
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