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Japan should stick to its 3 non-nuclear principles

September 9, 2017

Editorial: Japan must stick to non-nuclear principles



Shigeru Ishiba, former secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), called for discussions on a review of Japan's three non-nuclear principles of not possessing, not producing and not bringing in nuclear weapons.

Specifically, Ishiba suggested that the third principle of not bringing in such weapons be re-evaluated to open the way for the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in Japan.

Debate on the deployment of U.S. nuclear arms could send the wrong message to China and other countries and adversely affect international cooperation in pressuring North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.


Ishiba said, "Is it right to refuse the deployment of nuclear weapons inside the country while relying on U.S. nuclear arms for protection?"


Behind his remark is the idea that the deployment of nuclear arms in Japan, which would be exposed to a direct threat if North Korea possesses nuclear missiles, would enhance deterrence.


Ishiba pointed out that NATO has countered threats from the former Soviet Union and Russia by deploying U.S. nuclear weapons in its member countries, and said, "Such discussions are necessary to increase the usefulness of the nuclear umbrella." However, the security environment in East Asia is significantly different from that in Europe.


After China successfully conducted a nuclear test in 1964, there were discussions on the pros and cons of Japan arming itself with nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, then Prime Minister Eisaku Sato announced Japan's three non-nuclear principles in 1967, and the principles took root in Japan as an important part of its national policy in the process of the Ogasawara Islands south of Tokyo and Okinawa being returned to Japan's sovereignty from U.S. occupation in 1968 and 1972, respectively.


In adopting the principles, the government didn't just consider the Japanese public's sentiments as the only atomic-bombed country. Japan's calls for nuclear arms reduction and nuclear disarmament have been a pillar of Japan's diplomatic policy, and the denuclearization of East Asia, including the Korean Peninsula, is an important goal for Japan.


While falling under the protection of the U.S. nuclear umbrella, Japan has managed to maintain its goal of nuclear disarmament by adhering to its three non-nuclear principles.

It is necessary to re-examine Japan's diplomatic and security policies in the face of the growing threat posed by North Korea. That does not mean, however, that Japan can disregard the accumulation of historical and multifaceted discussions that led to the adoption of the non-nuclear principles as its national policy.


Fears persist in the international community that if North Korea were to possess nuclear missiles, Japan and South Korea would also arm themselves with nuclear weapons to deter the threat from Pyongyang.


It was appropriate that Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga promptly ruled out the possibility of Japan debating a review of the three non-nuclear principles, saying, "The government isn't considering deliberating the matter."


We fear Ishiba's remarks could undermine Japan's ultimate goal of realizing a world without nuclear arms.



September 8, 2017




EDITORIAL: Even in face of N. Korean threat, anti-nuke policy should remain





With Japan facing the challenge of responding to North Korea’s continuing nuclear arms program, former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has suggested a review of the nation’s long-standing three non-nuclear principles.


Appearing in a TV Asahi program, Ishiba asked, “Is it a viable argument that we will not accept (nuclear weapons) in Japan while saying that the nation will be protected under the U.S. nuclear umbrella?”


The simple answer to his question is, “Yes, it is a viable argument.”


The three principles of not producing or possessing nuclear weapons and not allowing their entry into Japan were first announced in 1967, during the Cold War, by then Prime Minister Eisaku Sato. Since then, the principles have been followed by Japan’s successive Cabinets.


This is a key national creed of postwar Japan and a product of its desperate attempt to come to terms with the reality that it relies on the U.S. nuclear deterrence for its security despite its strong desire to help eliminate nuclear arms from the world, driven by its experiences as the only country that has ever suffered nuclear attacks.


The United States doesn’t disclose, in principle, where it deploys its nuclear weapons. It is therefore difficult to confirm that the U.S. forces have not brought nuclear arms into Japan.


Even so, Japan’s commitment to the three non-nuclear principles has been a pillar of the nation’s foreign policy even after the end of the Cold War.


Japan’s move to reconsider the principles could prompt South Korea and Taiwan to seek their own nuclear arsenals, triggering a nuclear domino effect.


In South Korea, there are already calls for the redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to the country and even for its own nuclear armament.


The moves of South Korea and Taiwan to arm themselves with nuclear arsenals would seriously undermine the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime, giving North Korea a rationale for developing nuclear arms.


What is more important than anything else for the efforts to deal with North Korea’s nuclear program is solidarity among Japan, the United States and South Korea. The three countries should act on their united front to seek cooperation from China and Russia, which have significant influence over Pyongyang.


Japan should contribute to this strategy by sending out a strong message about its resolve to seek the denuclearization of Northeast Asia including the Korean Peninsula.


Japan’s solid commitment to the three non-nuclear principles will underpin its diplomatic efforts for this goal.


Made under these circumstances, Ishiba’s remarks could cause diplomatic repercussions that can chip away at the foundation of Japan’s diplomacy based on its non-nuclear principles. We cannot help but question his view on the issue.


As possible examples of allowing U.S. nuclear arms into Japan, Ishiba cited port calls made by U.S. strategic missile submarines carrying nuclear warheads at the U.S. Navy’s Yokosuka base in Kanagawa Prefecture or the Sasebo base in Nagasaki Prefecture.


The port calls at bases in Japan, which are close to North Korea, however, would not make much strategic sense.


In addition, such actions by the U.S. forces could provoke backlashes from some neighboring countries and make Japan a target should war break out.


Ishiba’s remarks came as part of a recent series of arguments made by LDP lawmakers for enhancing Japan’s military power in response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations.


Katsuyuki Kawai, an LDP Lower House lawmaker who now serves as a special adviser to the LDP president, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on foreign affairs, recently said, “I personally believe that the time has already arrived to seriously consider the possibility of the Self-Defense Forces possessing intermediate-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.”


This kind of proposal, apparently designed to promote a hard-line security policy agenda by taking advantage of the current crisis, can never contribute to regional stability.


What is really needed is cool-headed debate that is firmly in line with Japan’s basic foreign policy tenets, including the three non-nuclear principles and the strictly defensive security policy.


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