Barack Obama has become the first sitting US President to visit Hiroshima since it was destroyed by an atomic bomb in 1945.

Alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Mr Obama laid a wreath at the Peace Memorial Park in the city and honoured all those who died during World War Two.

Mr Obama, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 on the back of his promotion of nuclear non-proliferation, used a speech at the memorial site to reaffirm his commitment to reducing global stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

U.S. President Barack Obama hugs  atomic bomb survivor Mori as he visits Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan

Mr Obama hugs atomic bomb survivor Shigeaki Mori at the memorial

He said: “The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of the atom requires a moral revolution as well.

“That 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.

Obama Lays Hiroshima Wreath

 

“We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see, we listen to a silent cry.

“We have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history, and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.

“The memory of the morning of August 6, 1945, must never fade. We must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.”

Mr Obama did not apologise for the bombing, which is viewed in the US as having hastened the ending of the war, but acknowledged the devastating toll of the conflict.

President Obama Shakes Hands With Shinzo Abe

 

Thousands of people were killed instantly when the atomic bomb was dropped on the city on 6 August, 1945. Some 145,000 died by the end of that year.

The city of Nagasaki was hit by a second nuclear bomb on 9 August, 1945, and Japan surrendered six days later.

Ahead of the visit, protesters had gathered outside the peace park to demand an apology from the US President.

Mr Obama spoke briefly with five survivors of the atomic bombing who had attended the ceremony along with their families.

He also signed a guest book at the memorial park, writing: “We have known the agony of war. Let us now find the courage, together, to spread peace, and pursue a world without nuclear weapons.”

Mr Abe said the visit hailed a new chapter of reconciliation between the US and Japan.

The visit has been heavily scrutinised in the US and in Japan. Critics in the US claimed even making the visit could be seen as a form of apology for the bombing, while many in Japan were hoping for a formal apology.