President of Marshall Islands, nation which suffered nuclear testing, visits Hiroshima

by Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writer

On February 15, Christopher Loeak, 61, the president of the Marshall Islands, paid his first official visit to Hiroshima. The Marshall Islands are located in the central Pacific Ocean and include the Bikini Atoll, once a U.S. nuclear test site. At Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, in Naka Ward, he touched the reality of the atomic bombing and said that he was shaken deeply by the experience and that he hopes to strengthen his nation’s solidarity with the people of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Fukushima.

After offering flowers at the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims, Mr. Loeak toured Peace Memorial Museum. Guided by Kenji Shiga, the director of the museum, the president studied the artifacts on display, such as photographs of A-bomb survivors who suffered from radiation disorders and a charred lunchbox.

He also listened to the A-bomb experience of Keiko Ogura, 76, an A-bomb survivor and resident of Naka Ward. Mr. Loeak expressed his gratitude for her efforts in appealing to the world for nuclear abolition by saying that such weapons were not needed.

The Marshall Islands, comprised of five islands and 29 atolls, are located about 4,500 kilometers southeast of Japan. Between 1946 and 1958, the United States carried out a series of 67 nuclear tests there, resulting in harmful effects to the health of many local residents.

President Loeak is visiting Japan at the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. His trip to the A-bombed city was arranged at his request. He will return to the Marshall Islands on February 16.

(Originally published on February 16, 2014)