Japan must break away from U.S. nuclear umbrella and become nuclear-free

In his speech to the International Meeting of the 2009 World Conference against A & H Bombs on August 3, Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo called for building a national consensus on the need for Japan to break away from U.S. nuclear umbrella and become nuclear-free in both name and reality.

The following is the translation of the speech as reported in the August 4 issue of Akahata:

Since its start in 1955, the World Conference against A and H Bombs has helped develop the movement with the following three basic goals: the prevention of nuclear war, a total ban on and the abolition of nuclear weapons, and support and solidarity with the Hibakusha. The movement has now developed into an international forum against nuclear weapons and for peace, where national governments, international organizations including the United Nations, non-governmental organizations, grassroots movements as well as citizens work together for this cause.

Expressing heartfelt thanks to the Organizing Committee for giving me this opportunity to speak in the International Meeting, I would like to express my warmest greetings of solidarity to all the participants from overseas and Japan.

Now let me report on how the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) has reached out to the international community for the elimination of nuclear weapons, the task for all humanity. I will also focus on problems and needs for Japan, the only A-bombed country, to play a positive role on this question.

I wrote to President Obama calling for the start of international negotiations aimed at totally eliminating nuclear weapons

A new situation is emerging in the world towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. The speech delivered by U.S. President Barack Obama on April 5 in Prague has great significance in global efforts to turn our earnest desire for the elimination of nuclear weapons into reality. He said, “as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act.” He also said, “I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” For the first time a U.S. president officially declared the elimination of nuclear weapons as the country’s national goal. Of course there is a big difference between the U.S. government and the JCP regarding the Japan-U.S. relationship and other matters, but we sincerely welcome the statement.

On this basis, I wrote a letter to him on April 28. In the letter I welcomed his speech, but at the same time I stated candidly that “I cannot fully agree.” What I meant was: While he called for “a world without nuclear weapons,” he stated that the goal will not be reached, “perhaps not in my lifetime.” In the 64 years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki were A-bombed, nuclear-weapon states have never engaged in negotiations with the official goal of abolishing nuclear weapons. It might take long to move from a call for negotiations to their commencement, and then to reaching agreement, but we cannot set a time frame in advance for how long it will take. This is a task no one has tackled before.

There is something that can be done if there is the will to do it. I strongly called on the president to “take the initiative to start international negotiations to conclude an international treaty for the elimination of nuclear weapons.”

Partial measures can be meaningful only when they are tied to the goal of totally eliminating nuclear weapons

In the letter, I conveyed our view on partial measures towards nuclear disarmament, and their relationship with the elimination of nuclear weapons.

As “concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons,” President Obama in his Prague speech referred to starting negotiations for a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and pursuing a new treaty for a fissile materials cut-off treaty (FMCT). No doubt they are positive measures. But I said in the letter, “These concrete steps can have a positive and constructive significance when they are tackled together with the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons.” I added, ”I am convinced that the whole (postwar) process of negotiations on nuclear weapons has proved that ‘a world without nuclear weapons’ cannot be achieved only through partial measures in the absence of the objective of abolishing nuclear weapons themselves.”

The same holds true for the regime of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The JCP is of course against an increase in the number of nuclear-weapon states for any reason, but it has consistently criticized the historically unprecedented discriminatory inequality of the treaty. The international community has accepted the NPT regime only because the nuclear powers pledged in Article VI of the treaty that they would make sincere efforts for the elimination of nuclear weapons. What is the reason that this treaty has not prevented new nuclear-weapon states from coming into existence? My letter candidly pointed out, “underlying this is the fact that the nuclear powers have not been true to their pledge during the 39 years since the NPT entered into force.” It continued, “only when nuclear powers tackle the task of eliminating nuclear weapons in earnest, will they obtain the political and moral power to dissuade other countries from pursuing nuclear weapons.” Thus I sincerely requested of the president “that the nuclear-weapon states confirm the ‘unequivocal undertaking’ towards the elimination of nuclear weapons in the 2010 NPT Review Conference.”

On May 16, we received a letter from the U.S. government in response to my letter. It was written by Acting Assistant Secretary of State Glyn T. Davies on behalf of President Obama at his instruction. The U.S. letter of response thanked me for conveying our views on “how we can best achieve a world free of nuclear weapons,” and he appreciated our “passion for this issue.” The fact that President Obama sent us an official letter in reply gave me an impression that he is serious about, and has enthusiasm for, the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Government must make public and abrogate the secret agreement with U.S. and implement the ‘Three Non-Nuclear Principles’

In this changing world, what is required of Japan, the only A-bombed country, to play a positive role in bringing about “a nuclear-weapons free world”?

The crux of the matter is that Japan should break away from the U.S. “nuclear umbrella” in order for Japan to be nuclear weapons-free both in name and reality.

Recently Japan’s former vice foreign ministers testified to the existence of a secret Japan-U.S. agreement on nuclear weapons, adding further proof to its existence. It has now become a major political issue. This agreement stipulates that U.S. warships and aircraft carrying nuclear weapons do not need prior consultations with the Japanese government in order to enter Japanese territories. This secret deal was struck by the two governments during the revision of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty in 1960. The Japanese government has had as its national policy the Three Non-Nuclear Principles (not to possess, manufacture or allow nuclear weapons to be brought into Japan) since 1968. But this secret agreement had already made one of these Principles, namely not allowing their being brought in, nothing more than a hollow phrase. Based on declassified U.S. official documents, the existence of this agreement was revealed beyond all doubt through the questioning in the Diet by then JCP Chairperson Mr. Tetsuzo Fuwa in 2000. But the Japanese government has consistently denied its existence. Even after the former vice foreign ministers’ testimonies confirmed the existence of the agreement, the government has not changed its position that it does not know anything about it. On the other hand, faced with the increasingly undeniable fact of the secret agreement, adverse currents are on the rise in the political establishment; they call for scaling back the Three Non-Nuclear Principles to Two Principles, by deleting the non bringing-in clause, thus adjusting the national policy to the secret agreement. We strongly reject such an argument. We demand that the secret agreement should be made public and abrogated and that the Three Non-Nuclear Principles fully implemented.

Doctrine of ‘nuclear deterrence’ is no longer acceptable to anyone

In addition, we strongly demand that Japan break away from the position of relying on the “nuclear umbrella” or “extended deterrence by nuclear weapons.” Even after President Obama’s speech, the Japanese government has done nothing to promote a nuclear weapons-free world referred to in his speech. Rather it has repeatedly and persistently demanded that the U.S. government guarantee the “nuclear umbrella” or “extended deterrence” over Japan.

But isn’t it that former U.S. government leaders who promoted its nuclear strategy in the past are now saying that the concept of “nuclear deterrence” does not work? “Nuclear deterrence” is a strategy by which governments if necessary threaten to use nuclear weapons for their defense. This strategy makes sense only when premised on the use of nuclear weapons. Former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz has said in effect: Nuclear weapons are immoral. Who on earth can press the button to launch nuclear weapons? No one can drop nuclear bombs while knowing that hundreds of thousands or millions of people would be killed. No leader of civilized countries can use nuclear weapons. If they cannot be used, they cannot implement deterrence (Interview with Kyodo News, January 2008).

I also pay attention to President Obama’s statement in Moscow on July 7. He said, “The notion that prestige comes from holding these weapons, or that we can protect ourselves by picking and choosing which nations can have these weapons, is an illusion.”

A-bombed Japan can take a lead in totally eliminating nuclear weapons only when it breaks away from the U.S. nuclear umbrella

“Nuclear umbrella” or “extended deterrence” is the concept of maintaining security by using another country’s nuclear weapons as a threat. There is no real difference between a nation threatening the use of its nuclear weapons or having its ally do so. In either case nuclear weapons would be used if necessary. The Japanese people experienced the inhumanity of nuclear weapons more than any other nations. It is extremely shameful that the government of Japan, the country that has experienced nuclear disaster, resorts to the threat of nuclear weapons and clings to the doctrine based on the use of nuclear weapons.

We want Japan to be independent from the U.S. nuclear umbrella and to be a “nuclear-free Japan” in name and reality. This would give Japan firm ground for taking a global initiative, as an atomic-bombed country, for abolishing nuclear weapons. This would also give Japan a stronger basis to demand that North Korea should not possess nuclear weapons. “Nuclear deterrence” and “extended deterrence” are also the root cause of nuclear proliferation. It is because those who are threatened by nuclear weapons want to have nuclear weapons on the basis of the same logic. I call on the Japanese people to form a solid national consensus for a “nuclear-free Japan” in name and reality.

People’s struggle makes history

What is the root cause that encouraged the United States towards positive change on the nuclear weapons issue? Needless to say, it is the public opinion and movement for world peace.

Recently I had a chance to meet people from a Hibakusha (A- and H-bombs sufferers) organization. A Hibakusha said, “We have struggled against health worries and deteriorating health for the last 64 years since the end of World War II. What we, the Hibakusha, have appealed for during these years has at last reached the world.” I was deeply moved by these words. It is world public opinion and the global movement that will determine the course of the nuclear weapons issue, the task for all humanity. Public opinion and movement in Japan, the only A-bombed country, has special significance.

On behalf of a political party in Japan, the only A-bombed country, that has worked resolutely since the end of World War II for the abolition of nuclear weapons, I would like to stress our determination to make every effort to disseminate from Japan the call for “a world free of nuclear weapons.”

In preparation for the next NPT Review Conference that begins on May 3, 2010, an international signature campaign in support of international negotiations for the abolition of nuclear weapons has been undertaken on a worldwide basis, and the “International Action Day for a Nuclear Free World” is planned on May 2 just a day before the start of the Review Conference. I would like to express our heartfelt solidarity with these activities.

It is the people’s struggle that creates history. We have long sought the elimination of nuclear weapons. Possibilities have opened up to turn this goal into reality. Let us together open the new door of history. Let us work harder hand in hand to realize “a world free from nuclear weapons” with the strength of the people’s struggle in every country in the world.

Thank you very much for your attention.

- Akahata, August 4, 2009

The Central Committee of the Japanese Communist Party
4-26-7 Sendagaya,Shibuya-ku,Tokyo 151-8586