Japan Pledges Abstinence As U.S. Reviews Nuke Posture


Nuclear Abolition News | IDN

By Jaya Ramachandran
IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

BERLIN (IDN) - As the only country having suffered nuclear bombings and intermittently rattled by atomic tremors from Pyongyang, Japan is not only anxiously looking forward to a new orientation of the role and mission of the U.S. nuclear forces in the next five to ten years, but also trying to influence Washington's decisions. JAPANESE

The backdrop to Tokyo's cautious moves is the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan. That date, January 19, 1960, marked the beginning of what President Dwight Eisenhower called "an indestructible partnership" based on "equality and mutual understanding".

From that point of view, Barack Obama administration's re-assessment called the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) is the first in nearly two decades after the Cold War ended. The Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations completed their NPRs in 1994 and 2001, respectively.

Japan is also a leading U.S. ally in the Pacific. It is not surprising therefore that since President Barack Obama’s historic speech in Prague in April 2009 calling for a world free of nuclear weapons, members of the Diet, the country’s parliament, and political leaders as well as senior government officials have not been sitting idle.

In a letter to President Obama, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defence Secretary Robert Gates and top members of Congress, representatives of the two houses of Japanese parliament say:

“As members of the Diet of the only country to have experienced nuclear bombings, we believe we have ‘a moral responsibility’ to support your efforts for the abolition of nuclear weapons with all our strength, and declare that:

- We fully support the policy objectives of moving toward a world without nuclear weapons as outlined in your speech in Prague in April 2009.

- We strongly desire that the United States immediately adopt a declaratory policy stating that the ‘sole purpose’ of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter others from using such weapons against the United States or U.S. allies, in accordance with the recommendation of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND) Report (released December 15 in Tokyo).

- We are firmly convinced that Japan will not seek the road toward possession of nuclear weapons if the U.S. adopts a ‘sole purpose’ policy.

- We strongly desire that U.S. nuclear policy should exclude any option that would violate Japan’s ‘Three Non-Nuclear Principles’.

- We support your efforts to conclude a new START agreement with Russia mandating significant reductions in each country’s deployed strategic forces.

- We support your efforts to quickly ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and to negotiate a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT).”

Copies of the letter, endorsed by 204 parliamentarians across party barriers, were submitted in person by seven legislators to U.S. Japan Ambassador John Roos on February 19. They were led by Hideo Hiraoka, a member of the House of Representatives from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) who initiated the move.


On February 9, Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama commented favourably in the Diet on Hiraoka’s initiative, indicating that it was in accordance with his government’s commitment to maintaining Japan’s Three Non-Nuclear Principles and the support for nuclear disarmament.

The three 'non-nuclear principles' are a parliamentary resolution, never adopted into law that have guided Japanese nuclear policy since their inception in the late 1960s, and reflect general public sentiment and national policy since the end of World War II.

The tenets state that Japan shall neither possess nor manufacture nuclear weapons, nor shall it permit their introduction into Japanese territory. The principles were outlined by Prime Minister Eisaku Sato in a speech to the House of Representatives in 1967 amid negotiations over the return of Okinawa from the United States. The Diet formally adopted these in 1971.

The initiative of DPJ’s Hiraoka, who is a member of the group of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND), reinforces some of the key ideas in the letter sent by Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada to U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton in December 2009 as regards the third NPR.

In the letter, Okada – also a member of the PNND – distanced himself from the previous Japanese administration’s support for a strong U.S. nuclear posture, and expressed concerns that some Japanese officials may have lobbied the U.S. not to reduce its nuclear arsenal – a position which “would clearly be at variance with my views, which are in favour of nuclear disarmament”.

Okada’s letter also supported the idea that the role of nuclear weapons be restricted to deterrence of the use of nuclear weapons, and that the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon state members of the NPT be banned.

The parliamentarians’ letter points to a series of upcoming events including a nuclear security summit to be held in Washington in April and a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference the following month in New York. The letter says, "This year will be very important in terms of taking concrete steps toward the goal you stated" – the goal of achieving a nuclear weapons free world.

According to Hiraoka, U.S. Ambassador Roos welcomed the letter adding that nuclear abolition is one of the priority issues for President Obama. “The Ambassador at the same time told us that under the circumstances, as President Obama stated in his (Prague) speech, it may not be realized in his life time, but the U.S. would like to adopt a realistic approach.”


Will the Diet members’ letter have any impact on the Obama administration’s NPR and the decision of the U.S. Congress, particularly as only 204 out of 700 legislators signed the letter?

“The number of 204 does not mean that the rest are opposed to the letter or were reluctant to sign it. If the initiators of the move had been pro-active, all the Diet members would have signed the letter,” says Akira Kawasaki, executive committee member, of the ‘Peace Boat’ and NGO advisor to the Australian and Japanese co-chairs of the ICNND.

“Members of the Communist Party did not sign the letter because they found it to be too modest, and instead favoured further steps for disarmament;” Kawasaki said in an E-Mail interview from Tokyo.

He recalled that in June 2009, the House of Representatives had unanimously adopted, in support of President Obama's Prague speech, a resolution calling for strengthened efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. “The Japanese people's will is very clearly manifested in this act of support.”

Former vice minister for foreign affairs Masayoshi Hamada, who represents in the House of Councillors the New Komei Party, says: “The possibility of Japan getting involved in nuclear disarmament in a big way is just ahead of us.”

He would like to see Japan closely review the necessity of nuclear deterrence against concrete threats in East Asia to prepare the ground for the U.S. to adopt “the sole purpose declaration”.

Availing of the opportunity to assume chairmanship of UN Security Council in April 2010, Japan should trigger a binding UN resolution regarding “negative security assurance”. Considering that there is a high possibility of the U.S. requesting for tightening sanctions against Iran, Japan's as chair of the Security Council could play an important role.

Hamada is of the view that Japan should secure U.S. support for the UN resolution (on negative security assurance) as a counter proposal (for supporting the U.S. on its request for sanctions on Iran).

“Japan should work toward making obligatory the negative security assurance at the NPT review conference in May and at the preceding foreign ministers' meeting purported to achieve consensus. This schedule may sound hasty but Japan should make the most of the momentum of NPT review conference that takes place once in every five years,” Hamada said in an E-Mail interview from Tokyo.

Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said: “The (Diet members’) letter together with the Japanese government's statements serve an important role of conveying loud and clear that the most important U.S. ally in the Pacific does not oppose the Obama administration's nuclear disarmament vision but supports not only reductions in nuclear weapons but also a reduction in the mission that those weapons have.”

The NPR will reaffirm a U.S. commitment to extended nuclear deterrence in the Pacific (and elsewhere) but also have Japanese support to reduce both the numbers and mission, Kristemsen said an E-Mail interview from Washington.

Asked what he thought of the view among some sections of the Japanese political elite that no first use and sole purpose declarations on the part of the U.S. would expose Japan to the Chinese and eventually North Korean nuclear threat, Gregory Kulacki, Senior Analyst, China Project Manager at the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists said that they had conducted an extensive investigation.

“While there are concerns among some nuclear security experts in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence (in Tokyo) about significant changes to U.S. declaratory policy, there is virtually no chance those concerns would damage the alliance or lead to a change in elite Japanese attitudes about their strong support for the NPT and nuclear disarmament,” Kulacki said in an E-Mail interview.

The reason is obvious: “The Government of Japan has strongly endorsed the ICNND recommendations for an immediate U.S. declaration that the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter and, as a last resort, respond to the use of nuclear weapons by another country.” (IDN-InDepthNews/03.03.2010)

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