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US to send delegation to Hiroshima memorial

TOKYO -- Survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are welcoming a decision by the United States to send its first ever delegation to a ceremony marking the anniversary of the attacks, but are asking for something they aren't likely to get — an apology.

Tokyo has praised the decision to send U.S. Ambassador John Roos to the Hiroshima anniversary on Friday, though some survivors of the attack, which is seen by many in Japan as an unjustified use of excessive force against a civilian population, say they have mixed feelings.

“They best thing they could do would be to apologize,” said Terumi Tanaka, who survived the 1945 atomic bombing of Nagasaki at age 13 and is now secretary-general of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Associations. “But I doubt that is going to happen.”

Tanaka, whose organization is the only nationwide network of atomic bomb survivors, said the decision to send Roos is a positive sign of U.S. resolve to abolish nuclear weapons.

“We welcome the visit. But without an apology, it is difficult for us,” he said. “We aren't asking for reparations. We simply want the U.S. to apologize and get rid of its nuclear arsenal.”

U.S. officials say they felt it was “the right thing to do” to send Roos to the ceremony — which begins Friday morning with the ringing of a bell and the release of doves. They also hope the move will underscore U.S. President Barack Obama's call for a world without nuclear weapons.

Roos visited Hiroshima just weeks after he arrived in Tokyo in 2009, and the response was generally positive. But this is the first time the U.S. will send a delegation to the anniversary ceremony itself.

About 140,000 people were killed or died within months when an American B-29 bombed Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. Three days later, about 80,000 people died after the United States attacked Nagasaki. Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, ending World War II.

Hiroshima officials on Wednesday said this year representatives of 75 countries will attend the ceremony, along with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Representatives from nuclear powers France and Britain will also attend for the first time.

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba singled out Roos' decision to participate as particularly significant.

“The attendance of Ambassador Roos will further strengthen world opinion toward the abolition of nuclear weapons and, we strongly hope, deepen the resolve of the government of Washington, as a nuclear power, to destroy such weapons,” Akiba said in a statement.

Noriyuki Shikata, a spokesman for the prime minister, said the trip is a meaningful chance to influence public opinion toward a nuclear-weapon-free world.

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