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Former Hiroshima mayor urges Trump to meet bomb survivors

“I believe that the encounter [with Hiroshima survivors] would most likely change your view about war and the meaning of survival,” Tadatoshi Akiba wrote in his letter to President Trump. Above: A photo of a mushroom cloud over Hiroshima, Japan, shortly after the August 1945 atomic bombing.US Army/AP/File

WASHINGTON — Another voice has joined the chorus of those pleading with President Trump to exercise restraint when it comes to use of nuclear weapons by the United States: a Japanese city that has seen firsthand the devastating effects of an atomic bomb.

Tadatoshi Akiba, the former mayor of Hiroshima, wrote a letter to the new president just before his inauguration, urging him to make ‘‘wise and peaceable’’ decisions when it came to nuclear weapons. If anything, some of Akiba’s former constituents would know.

On Aug. 6, 1945, US forces dropped an atomic bomb, code-named Little Boy, on Hiroshima, a large city on the southwestern coast of Japan’s Honshu island. Three days later, the United States dropped another atomic bomb, Fat Man, on Nagasaki, about 260 miles away.


The combined blasts killed as many as 200,000 people and leveled both cities.

The ‘‘hibakusha,’’ or survivors of the atomic bombings, would later describe witnessing white-hot fire consuming those who were not killed instantly.

Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, 1945, and World War II would end less than a month later. It remains the only time in history a nuclear weapon was unleashed in war.

‘‘Since the nuclear issue is delicate and complicated, you may find the perspectives of those from one of the nuclear issue’s hot spots useful as you formulate the policy applicable to this area,’’ wrote Akiba, who was mayor of Hiroshima from 1999 to 2011, and has long been an advocate for eliminating nuclear weapons.

In his letter, dated Jan. 10, Akiba extended an invitation for Trump to visit Japan so that he could speak to the survivors in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Acknowledging Trump is ‘‘a busy person,’’ Akiba also suggested inviting survivors living in the United States to meet him, because ‘‘their struggles are worth listening to.’’


‘‘They can tell you in English their heart-wrenching experiences and a message that would produce hope in the future,’’ Akiba wrote. ‘‘I would recommend that you take the initiative to meet with them because I believe that the encounter would most likely change your view about war and the meaning of survival.’’

Trump’s White House team did not respond Monday to an email request for comment or confirmation the president had received Akiba’s letter. It had been a recurring charge throughout the presidential campaign: that Trump could not be trusted with the nation’s nuclear weapons.

In August, a group of 50 former national security officials, who served both Republican and Democratic presidents, signed an open letter saying Trump lacked the character, values, and experience to be president.

‘‘All of these are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be president and commander-in-chief, with command of the US nuclear arsenal,’’ the group wrote. Their worst-possible fear was at times unspoken but clear: that Trump’s lack of self control could spark nuclear war.

‘‘A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons,’’ his rival, Hillary Clinton, charged.

While Trump has repeatedly dismissed those criticisms, he has done little to calm fears of impending nuclear war since winning the presidency. Last month, Trump tweeted that the United States ‘‘must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability.’’

He did not elaborate on the message, which followed comments by President Vladimir Putin of Russia about strengthening its own nuclear arsenal.


The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes

Trump’s tweet — and comments he reportedly made the following day to MSNBC’s ‘‘Morning Joe’’ co-host Mika Brzezinski — sparked fears of a renewed arms race between the two countries.

Though Trump later seemed to walk back his statements, there are reasons to be concerned as he gained control of the United States’s nearly 1,400 active nuclear warheads on Friday, as reported by The Washington Post.