‘US relies on military presence to maintain its influence in Asia’

U.S. President Barack Obama lays a wreath at a cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan May 27, 2016 © Toru Hanai
Asia is one of the most important strategic regions in the world for the US, Joseph Cheng, Professor of Political Science at Hong Kong City University told RT. In order to maintain its influence there Americans have to keep their military presence, he added.

American President Barack Obama visited the Japanese city of Hiroshima on Friday, where on August 6, 1945 the US dropped a nuclear bomb.

RT: The US remains the only country to use nuclear weapons in conflict. Yet today, Washington says it strives to be a role model on nuclear issues for other states. If that's the case, why won't it just acknowledge wrongdoing in 1945 and apologies?

Joseph Cheng: The American position remains that the dropping of the two nuclear bombs helped to accelerate the ending of the war and avoided American forces having to land in Japan thus avoiding greater causalities. This has remained the American official position and I don’t think President Obama is ready to offer that kind of apology. His position is simply to spread an anti-war, especially an anti-nuclear weapons message in Japan and in northeast Asia. Maybe it is aimed at strengthening the friendship between the American and Japanese people. Although certainly the Chinese and the Koreans do not quite agree to that kind of gesture, because they think that they are the actual victims of the war of Japanese aggression.

READ MORE: Obama offers Hiroshima victims cynicism instead of justice

RT: How can Obama visit Hiroshima, talk about promoting peace and stopping the spread of nuclear arms, and at the same time be the very person under whose leadership nuclear arms budgets have been boosted in the US?

JC: Yes, the US - unlike China - has not yet promised to end first use nuclear weapons, or to avoid using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states. The American President also will visit an American air base in Japan. And in fact the US is going to deliver the newest model F-35 stealth fighters to the military base. Certainly his return to Asia policy, his balancing towards Asia policy has indicated a strengthening of American military forces in the region.

RT: The war has been over for 71 years now. But if the conflict is just a matter of history, as the president says, than why does the US still have major military bases in Japan, despite constant protests from the Japanese people, rape cases and other regular scandals with US troops based there?

JC: The US still wants to maintain its influence in the region, which it considers to be one of the most important strategic regions in the world for the US, probably just after Europe. In the view of the rising economic strength of countries like China, Japan and even South Korea, the US will have to rely much more on this military presence to maintain that kind of influence. Certainly, nowadays it seems that many South-East Asian countries including Japan are adopting various types of what they call ‘hedging strategies’, which means strengthening military capabilities on their part as well as strengthening military cooperation with the US.

People don’t need an apology, they need action

Dr. Robert Jacobs from the Hiroshima Peace Institute at Hiroshima City University argues that the Japanese government “is not seeking an apology” from the US.

“An apology by the US would carry with it an implication that Japan should also apologize for its wartime’s aggressions,” he said. So, US President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe rather choose to position themselves so that “the thing to do is to look forward to the future and to build towards the future, and to build peace, rather than to apologize for conduct in the past.”

In Jacobs’ opinion, even though some people in Hiroshima would like an apology, it’s unlikely to be the majority opinion.

“The majority opinion is that people would like to see action towards disarmament. That is much more important to people than an apology. They would like to see nuclear weapons reductions - that is much more important to mostly everyone I speak to in Hiroshima,” he told RT.

“People want to see change come, rather than they want to see accountability for the past. In a sense they are in a similar position to the leaders, just for different reasons,” Jacobs suggests.

Such attitudes can be explained by local culture and not by pressure from above, he explains.

“I think this is a very old culture here in Hiroshima – that people forgive and don’t ask for an apology, but that they seek peace. They want to use the moral authority of their experience to pursue peace,” he added.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.