Convinced that the time for this moment is right at last, President Obama on Friday became the first sitting American president to confront the historic and haunted ground of Hiroshima.
The president touched down in Hiroshima Friday morning after completing talks with world leaders at an international summit in Shima, Japan.
Mr. Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe entered the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, where the American leader signed a guest book.
Here, at this place of so much suffering, where U.S. forces dropped the atomic bomb that gave birth to the nuclear age, Mr. Obama paid tribute to the 140,000 people who died from the attack seven decades ago.
He did not apologize. He did not second-guess President Harry Truman's decision to unleash the awful power of nuclear weapons. He did not dissect Japanese aggression in World War II.
Rather, Mr. Obama aimed to offer a simple reflection, acknowledging the devastating toll of war and coupling it with a message that the world can -- and must -- do better.
He looked back, placing a wreath at the centopath, an arched monument in Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park honoring those killed by the bomb that U.S. forces dropped on Aug. 6, 1945. A second atomic bomb, dropped on Nagasaki three days later, killed 70,000 more.
Mr. Obama also looked forward.
He said the world has a shared responsibility to ask how to prevent the suffering that took place in Hiroshima 70 years ago from happening again.
Speaking alongside Abe, Mr. Obama said the memory of Aug. 6, 1945, "must never fade," and that it allows the world to fight complacency and fuels a common moral imagination. He's also called for a reduction in nuclear stockpiles and a move toward a world without nuclear weapons.
Those who come to ground zero at Hiroshima speak of its emotional impact, of the searing imagery of the exposed steel beams on the iconic A-bomb dome. The skeletal remains of the exhibition hall have become an international symbol of peace and a place for prayer.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.