Sunday 22 May, 2016
Original NHK video interview unavailable at this time. Follow hyperlink below to watch.
US President Barack Obama gave NHK an exclusive interview ahead of his arrival in Japan. He outlined his wish for a world without nuclear weapons and discussed the horrors of war.
The US President left Washington for Vietnam on Saturday.
After his visit, he will fly to Japan on Wednesday to attend the Group of Seven Summit in the Ise-Shima region.
On Friday, he will travel to Hiroshima, becoming the first sitting US President to visit the atomic-bombed city.
When asked about the reason why he decided to visit, Obama said that now is the appropriate time.
He said, “The G7 will be hosted close to Hiroshima and the Peace Memorial. When I first visited Japan, I said that this was something that I thought I might be interested in doing. And since I only have a few months left in office, I thought it was a good time for me to reflect on the nature of war.”
Obama added, “My purpose is not to simply revisit the past, but to affirm that innocent people die in a war, on all sides, that we should do everything we can to try to promote peace and dialogue around the world, that we should continue to strive for a world without nuclear weapons- that is something that I worked on since I first came into office.”
Obama said he did not intend to offer an apology in his message to survivors of the atomic bombing.
He said, “I think that it’s important to recognize that in the midst of war, leaders make all kinds of decisions. It’s a job of historians to ask questions and examine them, but I know as somebody who has now sat in this position for the last seven and a half years, that every leader makes very difficult decisions, particularly during war time.”
The president said he instead thinks about how the former adversaries came together to form one of the closest partnerships, and become the closest allies, in the world.
Obama evaluated the current situation of nuclear disarmament worldwide. He said, “I think that we have made some modest progress in at least not seeing a huge increase in nuclear stockpiles. In the major countries that possess nuclear weapons, I think there’s been an emphasis not on building up new weapons.”
He went on to say, “I’ve tried to negotiate with Russians, and was able to get, when I first came to office, a START-II treaty that reduced the stockpiles of Russian and US nuclear weapons. I think we can go further but so far Russia has not shown its self interest in doing more.”
President Obama says he plans to speak about a world without nuclear weapons when he visits Hiroshima.
A senior US official says Obama will make a brief visit to the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima on Friday where he will offer flowers and pay tribute to the victims.
Obama also touched on the upcoming G7 summit.
He said he believes Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agrees with him on the need to increase global growth.
Obama said, “I think it’s important for us to recognize that growth depends on all countries taking appropriate steps to encourage job creation, to encourage increased global commerce, and increased global trade.”
Obama remarked that one of the most important initiatives he’s taken with Prime Minister Abe has been the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.
He said, “What we have to do is guard against each country trying to take steps that will in the short term advantage one country but in the long term will make it more difficult for the entire region and the entire world to grow.”