When President Barack Obama tours Hiroshima’s haunting relics of nuclear warfare, he will be making a trip that past administrations weighed and avoided. For good reason: The hollowed core of the city’s A-Bomb Dome and old photos of charred children are sure to rekindle questions of guilt and penitence for World War II‘s gruesome brutality.

Obama’s visit later this month already is stirring debate on both sides of the Pacific about the motivations and justifications for the nuclear attacks in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Anything he says will be sharply scrutinized in the U.S., Japan and beyond. Anything resembling an apology could become a wedge issue in the U.S. presidential campaign and plunge Obama into the complicated politics of victimhood among Japan and its Asian neighbors.

“I don’t have any problem with him going, but there is nothing to apologize for,” said Lester Tenney, a 95-year-old American survivor of the 1942 Bataan Death March, when the Japanese marched tens of thousands of Filipino and U.S. soldiers to prison camps, and hundreds to their deaths.

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