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VOICES: A-bomb survivors leader says Japan shares blame, too

  • In this May 11, 2016 photo, Terumi Tanaka, secretary general of Japan Confederation of A-and H-bomb Sufferers Organizations, speaks during an exclusive interview with The Associated Press in Tokyo. The debate over whether U.S. President Barack Obama should apologize to Japanese survivors of America’s atomic bombings in World War II made Tanaka think: What about his own government? Tanaka was 13 when the U.S. dropped its second atomic bomb on Nagasaki city on Aug. 9, 1945, three days after the first on Hiroshima.(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

    In this May 11, 2016 photo, Terumi Tanaka, secretary general of Japan Confederation of A-and H-bomb Sufferers Organizations, speaks during an exclusive interview with The Associated Press in Tokyo. The debate over whether U.S. President Barack Obama should apologize to Japanese survivors of America’s atomic bombings in World War II made Tanaka think: What about his own government? Tanaka was 13 when the U.S. dropped its second atomic bomb on Nagasaki city on Aug. 9, 1945, three days after the first on Hiroshima.(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this May 11, 2016, photo, Terumi Tanaka, secretary general of Japan Confederation of A-and H-bombs Sufferers Organizations, speaks during an exclusive interview with The Associated Press in Tokyo. The debate over whether U.S. President Barack Obama should apologize to Japanese survivors of America’s atomic bombings in World War II made Tanaka think: What about his own government? Tanaka was 13 when the U.S. dropped its second atomic bomb on Nagasaki city on Aug. 9, 1945, three days after the first on Hiroshima. (AP Photo/Mari Yamaguchi)

    In this May 11, 2016, photo, Terumi Tanaka, secretary general of Japan Confederation of A-and H-bombs Sufferers Organizations, speaks during an exclusive interview with The Associated Press in Tokyo. The debate over whether U.S. President Barack Obama should apologize to Japanese survivors of America’s atomic bombings in World War II made Tanaka think: What about his own government? Tanaka was 13 when the U.S. dropped its second atomic bomb on Nagasaki city on Aug. 9, 1945, three days after the first on Hiroshima. (AP Photo/Mari Yamaguchi)  (The Associated Press)

The debate over whether President Barack Obama should apologize to Japanese survivors of America's atomic bombings in World War II made Terumi Tanaka think: What about his own government?

Tanaka, secretary-general of Japan Confederation of A-and H-bomb Sufferers Organizations, was 13 when the U.S. dropped its second atomic bomb on Nagasaki city on Aug. 9, 1945, three days after the first on Hiroshima.

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Editors: Part of a series of perspectives on the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945, released this week as President Barack Obama prepares to visit Hiroshima.

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He was at home on a mountainside and survived, but lost five relatives in the blast. His family lived in an anti-firebombing shelter until Japan surrendered six days later.

"To be honest, I think Mr. Obama should apologize to the survivors," said Tanaka, 84, a retired engineering professor. "I've seen my relatives die in front of my eyes, which I never forget."

He added, though, that Japan also should take some of the blame.

"Japan started the war and kept dragging it on," he said. "The government should fully take responsibility for our suffering."

The Japanese government offered little help for survivors until the confederation he now leads was established in 1956 to demand support. A year later, a national medical compensation law was enacted, but because of stringent standards, dozens of survivors are still fighting in court to get recognized as victims.

Referring to the White House stressing that Obama's visit Friday is not to revisit history, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push for future-oriented relations with the rest of Asia, Tanaka said: "You can see the future and move on only when you squarely face the past and come to terms with it."

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Excerpts of video interviews with Tanaka, another Japanese atomic bomb survivor and U.S. veterans are available at http://apne.ws/243ZLSD