THE US ambassador to Japan will for the first time attend the anniversary ceremony of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6.
The decision by the US to send John Roos to the annual commemoration of the 1945 US nuclear attack was welcomed by the Japanese government.
“I believe his attendance will be an opportunity to gain understanding of our country’s strong hope for nuclear disarmament, (our) hope never to allow the terrible devastation of atomic bombings to happen again,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said.
The move follows Japan’s capitulation to the US on its now abandoned plans to shift the Futenma US marines base off the southern island of Okinawa.
But the decision to send Mr Roos, who reportedly has close ties to US President Barack Obama, is thought to be more about Mr Obama’s strong stance on nuclear disarmament.
Asked whether the decision to send a US representative to the event had any special meaning, State Department spokesman Phillip Crowley said: “We thought it was the right thing to do.”
He declined to say whether Mr Roos would also attend the memorial service for the bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, which killed about 74,000 people.
The city of Hiroshima has been asking nuclear-weapon states, including the US, to send representatives to the ceremony since 1988, even though anti-US sentiment persists in the region.
Japan is hoping Mr Obama will visit Hiroshima when he attends the APEC summit in Yokohama, southwest of Tokyo, in November. The US President met with Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba at the White House in January, and was quoted by Mr Akiba as telling him, “I would like to come”.
Mr Roos visited Hiroshima last October and toured the Peace Memorial Park and the A-Bomb Dome, a symbol of the devastation caused by the attack, which killed about 140,000 people.