HIROSHIMA, Japan — President Obama laid a wreath at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial on Friday, telling an audience that included survivors ofAmerica’s atomic bombing in 1945 that technology as devastating as nuclear arms demands a “moral revolution.”
Thousands of Japanese lined the route of the presidential motorcade to the memorial in the hopes of glimpsing Mr. Obama, the first sitting American president to visit the most potent symbol of the dawning of the nuclear age. Many watched the ceremony on their cellphones.
“Seventy-one years ago, on a bright cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed,” Mr. Obama said in opening his speech at the memorial.
The following is a transcript of President Obama’s speech, as recorded by The New York Times.
The Hiroshima visit, under consideration since the first days of Mr. Obama’s presidency, could send ripples across Asia, a region still grappling with the echoes of World War II seven decades after it ended. Leaders in both China and South Korea worry that Mr. Obama’s visit to Japan’s deepest wound could be taken by the Japanese as an endpoint to their country’s fitful efforts to come to grips with their own wartime atrocities.
Many historians believe the bombings on Hiroshima and then Nagasaki, which together took the lives of more than 200,000 people, saved lives on balance, since an invasion of the islands would have led to far greater bloodshed. But the 30-acre Peace Memorial Park that Mr. Obama visited reflects none of that background.
The park offers a victim’s narrative, illustrating in gut-wrenching detail how more than 100,000 people in the city perished and thousands more were injured. It provides few of the historical reasons for the bombing, such as descriptions of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the savagery of Japan’s occupation of China, or the extraordinary death toll of soldiers and civilians in the invasion of Okinawa.
A short inscription on the park’s memorial arch reads, in part, “We shall not repeat the evil.” Which evil — the bombing or the conflict itself — and who is to blame are left unsaid.
Such failures by the Japanese to acknowledge their own role in the bombings has long bothered the Chinese, Koreans and others who suffered under the empire’s rule.
Before arriving in Japan, Mr. Obama visited Vietnam, where he lifted a longstanding arms embargo.