UPDATE 2 - US president lays wreath at Japan's Hiroshima memorial

UPDATE 2 - US president lays wreath at Japan's Hiroshima memorial

Barack Obama highlights that 'world was forever changed' by August 1945 atomic bombing


By Todd Crowell

TOKYO (AA) - United States President Barack Obama has talked of the need to pursue a world without nuclear weapons after laying a wreath at a cenotaph in Japan's Hiroshima on Friday.

After visiting a park that commemorates the Aug. 6 1945 U.S. atomic bombing that led to the deaths of around 140,000 people, Obama exchanged words with survivors and said that Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- where a similar bombing took place three days later -- should be "the start of our own moral awakening".

"The world was forever changed," he said, according to Japan's Kyodo news agency, adding that the right to life and liberty is "an ideal to be strived for".

In visiting the site, Obama became the first sitting U.S. head of state to visit the Japanese city since the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought an end to World War II.

Obama is in the country to attend the two-day G7 summit of seven leading industrialized countries and the European Union that began in the central city of Shima on Thursday.

The bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945 and Nagasaki on Aug. 9 led to Japan's surrender in World War II.

At least 140,000 people -- mostly civilians -- are reported to have died in Hiroshima and 74,000 in Nagasaki.

The bombing of Hiroshima was the world's first nuclear bombing.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter visited Hiroshima on May 25, 1984 -- three years after his presidency ended -- and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev visited the museum in April 1992, having traveled to Nagasaki the previous year.

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