Japan Acknowledges Nuke Agreement With U.S.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Japan today acknowledged signing an agreement with the United States decades ago to allow stopovers at the island nation's ports by U.S. military vessels carrying nuclear weapons, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, March 5).
The announcement was Tokyo's first formal confirmation of the pact's existence. A coalition government led by the left-of-center Democratic Party of Japan launched an investigation of undisclosed agreements with outside powers last year, after the coalition took power from the nation's long-entrenched Liberal Democratic Party.
The secret pact was believed to a contravene a decades-old, self-imposed ban on manufacturing, possessing or permitting the presence of nuclear weapons on Japanese territory.
"It's regrettable that such facts were not disclosed to the public for such a long time, even after the end of the Cold War era," Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said.
Public revelation of the pact's existence would not alter security arrangements permitting the presence of 50,000 U.S. military personnel on Japanese territory, he said.
Before the United States decided in 1991 to withdraw nonstrategic nuclear weapons from its warships and submarines, Washington might have acted on the deal by moving nuclear-armed vessels through Japan, Okada added (Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press/Yahoo!News, March 9).
"While I don't want to imagine it, we are in a situation where we cannot confidently say no nuclear weapons were brought in," Kyodo News quoted Okada as saying. "I cannot dispel that suspicion."
"The United States will depend less on nuclear (weapons). I don't think their introduction into Japan will happen in the future," he said (Kyodo News I, March 9).
Japan and the United States are likely to have shared an implicit understanding on permitting nuclear-armed vessels at Japanese ports, although the sides might have had diverging views on the deal, according to the experts panel that investigated the secret pacts.
Fears of damaging the Japanese-U.S. security relationship prevented the sides from explicitly questioning the terms of the nuclear pact, according to the panel (Yamaguchi, AP).
A separate Cold War-era deal permitted the United States to field nuclear weapons in Japanese territory during a crisis; the arrangement was not considered "secret," though, because it reflected the basic policy position expressed in a 1969 joint statement by the countries, the commission asserted (see GSN, Feb. 25; Kyodo News II/Breitbart.com, March 9).
Former Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato in 1969 expressed "regret" that Tokyo had ruled out the possibility of hosting nuclear weapons on its territory, the panel found (see GSN, Dec. 23, 2009).
Sato was open to the option of pursuing a Japanese nuclear deterrent, the commission learned. The deceased former statesman held office from 1964 to 1972 (Kyodo News III/Breitbart.com, March 9).
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