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Obama in Hiroshima: "71 years ago, death fell from the sky and the world was changed."

It’s the first visit to the city by a sitting US president.

Updated 11.50am

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BARACK OBAMA HAS paid a moving tribute to victims of the world’s first nuclear attack during his historic visit to Hiroshima.

In a sombre speech watched by survivors of the atomic blast, Obama said the bomb that rent the city on 6 August 1945 “demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself”.

“71 years ago, death fell from the sky and the world was changed,” he said after laying a large floral wreath.

Obama greeted ageing survivors and embraced one elderly man who appeared overcome with emotion.

He also chatted with a smiling Sunao Tsuboi, 91, who had earlier said he wanted to tell the US president how grateful he was for his visit.

Japan Obama Hiroshima US President Barack Obama hugs Shigeaki Mori, an atomic bomb survivor; creator of the memorial for American WWII POWs killed at Hiroshima. Source: Carolyn Kaster

Obama, wearing a dark suit, looked sombre as he offered a wreath at the cenotaph, in the shadow of a wrecked building that stands in silent tribute to the dead.

The president lowered his head and closed his eyes as he paused for a moment’s contemplation, before withdrawing and watching Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe do the same.

“Why did we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in the not-so-distant past. We come to mourn the dead,” Obama said to the assembled crowd.

“Their souls speak to us, they ask us to look inward, take stock of who we are,” he said.

Japan Obama Hiroshima Obama's visit was the first of a sitting US President to Hiroshima. Source: Shuji Kajiyama

“Technological progress without equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of the atom requires a moral revolution as well.

This is why we come to this place, we stand here, in the middle of this city and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell. We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see. We listen to a silent cry.

“The world was forever changed here but, today, the children of this city will go through their day in peace,” the US president said. “What a precious thing that is.”

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Before Obama’s visit, the White House had said that he would not be apologising for the bombing or revisit the decision taken by his predecessor Harry Truman at the close of World War II.

While some in Japan feel the attack was a war crime because it targeted civilians, many Americans say it hastened the end of a brutal and bloody conflict, and ultimately saved lives.

© – AFP 2016

Read: Barack Obama is set to make history by visiting Hiroshima, but there’ll be no apology >

Read: Disney apologises for ‘insensitive’ Nagasaki anniversary tweet >

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