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The legacy of Shinzo Abe: a Japan divided about nuclear weapons

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced his resignation due to health concerns on August 28, 2020. Shinzo Abe was assassinated while giving a speech at an election rally on July 8, 2022 in Nara, Japan.

August 24, 2022

On August 1, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida became the first Japanese leader to ever attend the Review Conference for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which is taking place this month at UN headquarters in New York. Kishida, whose family hails from Hiroshima, is one of the very few voices within Japan’s ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), to consistently emphasize the humanitarian impacts of the use of nuclear weapons and Japan’s unwavering commitment to nuclear disarmament. This contrasts with his most-recognized predecessor, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose assassination on July 8, 2022, shocked the entire world.

Abe’s views about nuclear weapons. Shinzo Abe was known to hold views that underscored the effectiveness of nuclear deterrence and the usefulness of nuclear weapons. He even hinted at the possibility that Japan could one day acquire such weapons. During his eight years as prime minister, Abe made Japan’s ambivalent nuclear policy emphasize the importance of the US nuclear umbrella. In doing so, he shifted further away from the brief momentum in favor of nuclear disarmament created by former US President Barack Obama and Abe’s predecessors. From 2012 to 2020, Abe’s second term[1] was marked by heightened tensions and a rapidly deteriorating regional security environment—from China’s aggressive military buildup advancing claims in the East China Sea to North Korea’s increasing nuclear and missile capabilities. In February 2017, during a visit to US President Donald Trump in Washington, Abe successfully obtained reassurance about the unwavering “U.S. commitment to defend Japan through the full range of U.S. military capabilities, both nuclear and conventional.” One year later, in another remarkable sign of Abe’s focus on the role of nuclear weapons, his Foreign Minister Taro Kono issued swift and unequivocal praise of President Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review.

The increasingly tense regional security environment over the past 10 years may certainly have influenced the Abe government’s nuclear views. But Abe’s focus on nuclear weapons started before 2012. Shinzo Abe’s political rhetoric certainly caused several uproars among the Japanese public throughout his political career. But its analysis provides a useful glimpse into his and his party’s nuclear thinking. In one famous example, in May 2002, Shinzo Abe reportedly told students at Waseda University: “The possession of nuclear bombs is constitutional, so long as they are small.”[2] Then Japan’s deputy chief cabinet secretary, Abe was undeterred by the public outcry that followed his remarks and will maintain his views for the rest of his career.

Two decades later, as Russia was invading Ukraine, Shinzo Abe said on television that Japan needs to discuss the option of a NATO-style nuclear-sharing agreement with the United States. This was an apparent revision by Abe of the third principle of Japan’s Three Non-Nuclear Principles, which states Japan shall never permit the introduction of nuclear weapons into its territory. Japan’s Three Non-Nuclear Principles of not possessing, not producing, and not introducing nuclear weapons were established in 1967 by Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, Abe’s great-uncle. Although these principles were never made into law, they are still viewed as the cornerstone of Japan’s official nuclear policy to this day.

In his February 2022 television interview, Abe did try to stand by these principles, saying: “Japan is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has the Three Non-Nuclear Principles. As a country that has suffered atomic bombings, it is important to move toward the goal of nuclear abolition.” Still, his remarks about nuclear sharing were harshly criticized by the Hibakusha community—the survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

A long political tradition of rhetorical ambivalence. Shinzo Abe’s positive view about the potential value of nuclear weapons for Japan was certainly not unique among Japanese politicians and has been shared by many within the LDP. Several of Abe’s government ministers spoke publicly in favor of the nuclear option or answered that “Japan should consider acquiring nuclear weapons if the international situation calls for it” in surveys by the Mainichi Shimbun, one of Japan’s major newspapers. These included Abe himself, former Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, and five former defense ministers. Shinzo Abe’s younger brother and current Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi gave the same response to the Mainichi survey in 2012, although in 2020 he ruled out the nuclear option and publicly supported the Three Non-Nuclear Principles.

Abe’s 2002 assertion about the legality of possessing nuclear weapons under the Japanese Constitution has been made several times by Japanese politicians since the 1950s. For instance, Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi—Abe’s grandfather—stated in May 1957 during a session of the Diet (Japan’s parliament) that the postwar Constitution did not explicitly forbid Japan from possessing nuclear weapons if they were small. This caused several members of the Diet to interrogate Kishi at the time. Later, during a Diet session in April 1968, a socialist member asked State Minister Kaneshichi Masuda to clarify his position on Japan’s security arrangement with the United States, to which Masuda responded, I translate, “the Constitution, indeed, does not forbid Japan to possess tactical nuclear weapons if they’re solely for self-defense. … Just like the Constitution does not forbid the entry of another country’s nuclear weapons.” But Masuda immediately added that the Three Non-Nuclear Principles are here to cover that loophole.

In March 1973, Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka also reaffirmed the Three Non-Nuclear Principles. But this time, he added that “while [Japan is] not able to have offensive nuclear weapons, we are not saying that we will have no nuclear weapons at all.” “[S]trategic nuclear weapons are offensive in character and tactical nuclear weapons are defensive,” Tanaka explained, and “defensive nuclear weapons are constitutional.” A similar argument was made by Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda in 1978 during a Diet debate: “[A]rticle 9 of the Constitution does not prohibit the possession of nuclear weapons by Japan. Japan can have them if their purpose is for a minimum level of defense. However, Japan also has the Three Non-Nuclear Principles.”

Shinzo Abe’s position of questioning the limits of Japan’s non-nuclear policy is therefore part of a long political tradition advancing the idea that nuclear weapons might be a possibility for Japan.

Getting rid of Japan’s non-nuclear policy? The long-standing reluctance by Japanese elites to publicly discuss nuclear weapons for Japan, called “the nuclear taboo,” derives from the strong public aversion to such weapons. This aversion was amplified after the Lucky Dragon no. 5 incident on March 1, 1954, when a Japanese fishing boat was contaminated by the nuclear fallout from the US nuclear test at Bikini Atoll. From that day, whenever a Japanese politician even mentioned nuclear weapons, the public reacted very strongly and stayed skeptical of any rhetoric that might suggest the non-nuclear principles and Japan’s status as a Hibakukoku—a country that suffered atomic bombings—not be upheld. Japanese officials and LDP members together have lamented that discussions over a nuclear Japan are still considered taboo. Former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba commented in 2017: “How can we take any responsibility if the Three Non-Nuclear Principles are actually four: not possessing, not producing, not introducing, and not even discussing nuclear weapons?” The gap between what the public expects Japanese politicians to say—and not say—and the LDP’s rhetoric about nuclear weapons truly reveals the ambivalence of the country’s official nuclear policy, which has been in place since the end of World War II.

In an ill-timed and bold rhetorical shift, however, Abe omitted the usual pledge to uphold the Three Non-Nuclear Principles in his Hiroshima speech on August 6, 2015. The omission, during the official ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings, caused great anxiety among many and prompted angered responses from the Hibakusha community. Anti-nuclear activist and Hibakusha Tomoyuki Mimaki noted: “It seems like the government is disrespecting the Three Non-Nuclear Principles.” Another activist, Kazuo Okoshi, commented: “Some politicians advocate for nuclearization. This is proof that the Three Non-Nuclear Principles are weakening.” Probably in response to the public outcry following his omission, Abe did mention the Three Non-Nuclear Principles in his speech in Nagasaki three days later. In doing so, Abe was reassuring the Japanese that there would be no change to the official nuclear policy.

This long history of mixed messages and rhetorical mishaps by leaders of Japan’s ruling party can be read as the inevitable consequence of the country’s ambiguous nuclear policy, swinging between effective nuclear deterrence and global nuclear disarmament aspirations. But this posture can be also understood as creating a hedging strategy about nuclear weapons perceived as necessary by many within the LDP. Politicians of the ruling party may indeed have seen it as advantageous for Japan to flash the “nuclear card” from time to time while still referring to the Three Non-Nuclear Principles.

Talking to different audiences. The ambivalent nature of Japan’s nuclear policy may appear useful in catering to different audiences at home and abroad. The first and most obvious audience intended to receive signaling about the nuclear card consists of Japan’s regional adversaries, especially China. Statements about the constitutional right to possess nuclear weapons exemplify such rhetoric and are partly aimed at keeping Japan’s adversaries uncertain about their neighbor’s ultimate security intentions. As former Executive Director of the International Energy Agency Nobuo Tanaka wrote in 2018: “[G]iven recent geopolitical developments in Northeast Asia, eliminating Japan’s nuclear capability could be very unwise. If so, whether and how we should maintain Japan’s nuclear capability needs to include the national security perspective as part of a serious public discussion. Japan will never ever build nuclear weapons, and yet being suspected of doing so by some of its neighbors, is probably the strongest national security reason for Japan to continue to use nuclear power.”

The second audience is domestic. Japan is widely viewed as a nuclear threshold state, as it has significant latent capabilities due to its highly advanced nuclear fuel cycle technologies. That Japan refuses to develop nuclear weapons despite its latent nuclear status has been used by Japanese officials to reassure the public about the security of the archipelago, while keeping its moral stance vis-à-vis global peace. Possessing latent nuclear capabilities yet not going nuclear is indeed considered proof that Japan is an international role model and fits in the official narrative that Japan is a bridge-builder between nuclear and non-nuclear states. At the same time, because this rhetoric is ambiguous, it also provides Japanese leaders with another way to remind the public of the country’s potential to go nuclear, if it decides to.

The first recorded instance of such reassurance discourse dates from 1958. In his memoirs published in 1983, Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi wrote after a visit to the new Tokai-mura nuclear facility “Japan does not have nuclear weapons, but by showing that we possess the technology to build them, we can increase our political leverage at the international level when it comes to disarmament issues and nuclear testing.”

A more explicit version of this argument features in a Diet debate in October 2006, when Akira Amari, minister of economy, trade, and industry under Shinzo Abe’s first premiership, stated, I translate: “Japan has the capabilities [to go nuclear], but doesn’t. The fact that Japan declares that it has no intention of doing so while maintaining those capabilities is what truly makes Japan’s policy convincing. If a country that doesn’t have the capabilities to go nuclear declares that it will not go nuclear, it is just lip service. However, Japan does have the technical capabilities, yet it asserts that it will not go nuclear: this is exactly what makes Japan a credible and persuasive advocate for the abolition of nuclear weapons around the world.” In other words, retaining nuclear latency adds credibility to disarmament matters.

The third audience is the United States, with which Abe has been particularly keen to engage. On some occasions, nuclear statements made by Japanese officials have alluded to a “nuclear option.” These were directed to the United States and meant to test its commitment to defend Japan. Commenting on North Korea’s nuclear test and ballistic missile launch of early 2016, Abe stated, in presence of US Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris, that “[t]he missile launch by North Korea was not only a direct threat to Japan but also a challenge to the United States.” Japanese political scientist Shogo Imoto commented at the time: “It is clearly an exaggeration to state that Mr. Abe is thinking of nuclear weapons for Japan. However, I interpret [his quote] as the following: ‘If the United States abandons Japan now and runs away from the North Korean threat, Japan will seriously consider a shift in its policy and nuclearize. Japan wants the United States to be fully aware of this as you tackle the North Korean issue.’”

These messages have appeared each time Japan felt its regional environment was becoming more challenging, as happened in December 1964 when Japan’s Prime Minister Eisaku Sato reportedly told US ambassador Edwin Reischauer that Japan could develop nuclear weapons. Sato’s remarks were made after China had conducted its first successful nuclear bomb test in October 1964.

The fourth and last audience is the most conservative part of the Japanese public. Using the slogan “Take Japan back” (Nippon wo torimodosu), Abe’s campaign for a second term appeared to go beyond the mainstream conservatism of LDP politicians and revealed the prime minister’s overtly nationalistic values and agenda. When Abe rose to power for the second time in 2012, many Japanese and international analysts warned about his revisionist and nationalist views and the regional instability they could cause. Some analysts even labeled Abe as “the most conservative leader in Japan’s postwar history.” Abe, however, quickly managed to eclipse his nationalist label by skillfully handling newly elected US President Donald Trump and even enjoyed a new reputation as a proactive diplomat seeking engagement and mediation. But in the nuclear rhetoric of Shinzo Abe, as of his closest allies, one could still find hints and allusions to nuclear weapons’ prestige and relevance to international politics.

Abe’s nuclear legacy. The deeply ambivalent messages that paved Abe’s political career point to the perception by LDP leaders that a nuclear stance needs to simultaneously address all four audiences—adversaries, allies, the Japanese public, as well as its most conservative fraction. But Shinzo Abe’s views on nuclear weapons do not only reflect the longstanding strategy of his party. His continued, strong emphasis on the need for nuclear deterrence also resulted in a sharper divide and a greater hostility between the government and largely anti-nuclear public opinion in Japan. Moreover, even though Abe’s views were not at odds with the LDP, his government’s reliance on nuclear deterrence uniquely contributed to consolidating Japan’s nuclear hedging posture even further. The delays and hesitation by Abe’s government in presenting a clear roadmap for the management of the country’s plutonium stockpile as well as its nuclear energy policy also exacerbated the distrust of the public, still embittered by how the government managed the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Japan’s current prime minister, Fumio Kishida, is now highlighting Japan’s goal of nuclear disarmament and publicly rejected Abe’s idea of nuclear sharing. But the country’s nuclear hedging posture is so entrenched in the political thinking of the LDP’s leadership that it is highly unlikely Japan’s ambivalent nuclear policy will change in the foreseeable future.

Kishida’s speech on August 1 at the United Nations on the first day of the NPT Review Conference already drew harsh criticism from the Hibakusha community for failing to mention the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW, also called the “ban treaty”) and for not clarifying Japan’s future role in nuclear disarmament. Kishida’s efforts to re-center the country’s nuclear policy towards disarmament may be sincere, but it will have to overcome the wide gap between the public and the government that Abe’s focus on nuclear deterrence further exacerbated.

Through his security-oriented nuclear views, Shinzo Abe attempted to diminish the Japanese public’s long-standing allergy to and the country’s emotional wounds over nuclear weapons. However, his nuclear legacy has created an even wider divide in Japan—between those who think of nuclear policy exclusively in terms of disarmament and those who prefer emphasizing Japan’s deterrence needs. How Abe’s nuclear legacy will impact the future of nuclear policy in Japan—in one direction or another—is an open question.


[1] Shinzo Abe served four terms as prime minister of Japan, in 2006–2007, 2012–2014, 2014–2017, and 2017–2020. His last three contiguous terms from 2012 to 2020 are often referred to as his “second term.” Abe has been the longest-serving prime minister in Japan to date.

[2] What Shinzo Abe is reported to have said is not entirely clear. Some news outlets report that he said: “There is no problem with atomic bombs, constitutionally speaking. As long as they’re small.” (Wall Street Journal Japanese version) Others state he said: “The possession or use of nuclear weapons is not a problem constitutionally, as long as they’re small” (Sunday Mainichi magazine). As this was an oral remark at an event at Waseda University, it is difficult to know what Abe said exactly. In any case, his remarks were later criticized very harshly by the Japanese public.



August 28, 2022 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Nuclear Weapons Policies of Japan and South Korea Challenged

UN Human Rights Council. Credit: UN Web TV

July 31, 2022

By Jaya Ramachandran

GENEVA (IDN) — The Basel Peace Office, in cooperation with other civil society organisations, has challenged the nuclear weapons policies of Japan and South Korea in the UN Human Rights Council, maintaining that these violate the Right to Life, a right enshrined in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The two East Asian countries’ nuclear strategies have been called into question in reports submitted on July 14 as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the obligations of Japan, South Korea and 12 other countries under human rights treaties. (See Submission on Japan and Submission on South Korea).

The submissions, presented at a time when Russia has made nuclear threats to the US and NATO if they intervene in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, underline the need to address the risks of nuclear deterrence policies. Besides, Russia is not the only country that possesses nuclear weapons and/or maintains options to initiate nuclear war.

“In times of high tensions involving nuclear-armed and/or allied states, plans and preparations for the use of nuclear weapons elevate the risk of nuclear war, which would be a humanitarian catastrophe, severely violating the rights of current and future generations,” says Alyn Ware, Director of the Basel Peace Office. “Compliance with the Right to Life with respect to nuclear weapons is, therefore, an urgent matter, impacting the rights of all humanity.”

In 2018 the UN Human Rights Committee affirmed that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is incompatible with the Right to Life, and that States parties to the ICCPR have obligations to refrain from developing, acquiring, stockpiling and using them. They must also destroy existing stockpiles and pursue negotiations in good faith to achieve global nuclear disarmament.

But both Japan and South Korea are engaged in extended nuclear deterrence policies which involve the threat or use of US nuclear weapons on their behalf in an armed conflict. Both have also supported the option of first use of nuclear weapons on their behalf, even when the United States has been trying to step back from such a policy.

The Basel Peace Office and other civil society organisations argue that the extended nuclear deterrence policies of Japan and South Korea violate their human rights obligations, as is their lack of support for negotiations for comprehensive, global nuclear disarmament.

The submissions make several recommendations of policies the governments could take to conform to the Right to Life. These include adopting no-first-use policies and taking measures to phase out the role of nuclear weapons in their security doctrines.

This they could do by establishing a Northeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone and urging at the ongoing Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference an agreement on the global elimination of nuclear weapons by 2045, the 75th anniversary of the NPT.

The submissions are not solely critical of the two governments. They also applaud Japan and South Korea for the positive steps taken. South Kora, in particular, has deployed sports diplomacy (the 2018 Winter Olympics peace initiative) and other diplomatic efforts to rebuild dialogue and agreement with North Korea on a process for peace and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

If the UN Human Rights Council decides to pick up on the challenges and recommendations in the submissions, and direct these to Japan and South Korea, the two countries are required to respond.

Similar submissions were made over the past two years to the Human Rights Council and other UN human rights bodies with regard to the nuclear policies of Russia, the USA, France, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, North Korea, Netherlands and the United Kingdom (see Nuclear weapons and the UN human rights bodies).

At that time, the issues were not taken up in earnest by the relevant bodies. However, it is hoped that the increased threat of nuclear war arising from the Ukraine conflict might stimulate the Human Rights Council to make this a much higher priority for the current review cycles. [IDN-InDepthNews — 31 July 2022]

August 4, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Ukraine war triggers debate on Japan’s nuclear option

In a new and volatile strategic environment, a decades-old commitment on non-proliferation is up for discussion.

14 Mar 2022

In the wake of the Ukraine conflict, Shinzo Abe, Japan’s former prime minister and now head of the largest faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), has suggested that Japan consider hosting US nuclear weapons facilities on Japanese soil, similar to some European nations, such as Germany, which have nuclear sharing arrangements with the United States.

Abe’s suggestion was made in the context of Ukraine having renounced nuclear weapons in 1994, leaving itself vulnerable today. The announcement also comes on top of deepening concerns about China’s growing military assertiveness around Japan’s maritime space and beyond, and the dangerous situation on the Korean peninsula with threats from the nuclear-capable rocket-launching North Korea.

Debates over whether Japan should host nuclear weapons or even go fully nuclear are not new. In the mid-1970s, a book-length study by John Endicott considered the nuclear option. In the early 2000s, then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe (both of whom later served as prime minister) again raised this prospect. It was quickly put to rest by Japan’s security analysts. Discussion has since continued among political and scholarly communities as to whether Japan should go nuclear, opt for a nuclear sharing arrangement with the United States by hosting nuclear weapons, or maintain its current non-nuclear weapons status.

Some smaller conservative opposition parties want to include nuclear options in policy discussions while considering Japan’s strategic objectives.

This latest eruption though is in a different context. This time, chairman of the General Council of the LDP Tatsuo Fukuda, who like his father Yasuo Fukuda before him holds an influential ruling party post and is touted as a future prime minister, has suggested that “we must not shy away from any debate whatsoever”. Last year’s LDP party presidential candidate and current LDP policy chief Sanae Takaichi also favours a debate. Some smaller conservative opposition parties want to include nuclear options in policy discussions while considering Japan’s strategic objectives. The main opposition parties have, however, strongly resisted any such prospects, arguing in favour of Japan’s non-nuclear status.

Abe’s suggestion was promptly and solidly rejected by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, as well as by the leader of the Komeito, the junior coalition partner of the ruling LDP. Even Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi, Abe’s younger brother, adopted into the Kishi family, also dismissed the idea of hosting nuclear weapons on Japanese shores. Kishi may have expressed this view in order to align with his boss, Prime Minister Kishida, rather than reflecting his true thinking on the matter, given his political pedigree.

ishida quickly confirmed that Japan firmly adheres to the three non-nuclear principles adopted in 1967, to not possess, produce or permit the introduction of nuclear weapons into Japan’s territory. These principles remain sacrosanct, even though Japan has made substantial departures in defence and security matters in the past decade.

Abe’s comments can be understood in this context, which emanates from a rapidly evolving strategic environment, regionally as well as globally. As prime minister, Abe had introduced several policy initiatives that were unthinkable in previous decades, such as removing bans on defence-related exports, allowing Japan to work with allies and partners in collective self-defence, establishing Japan’s first National Security Council (NSC), and issuing the first-ever National Security Strategy (NSS).

Not only has the Kishida government announced an intended update to the NSS, first issued in 2013, it has also promised to revise the National Defence Program Guidelines and Mid-Term Defence Program issued in 2013 and 2018. All these updates and revisions are undertaken in view of a rapid transformation in the strategic environment.

The Kishida government is likely to go even further and consider acquiring strike capabilities to ensure Japan’s territorial integrity and the safety of its people as well as protect US military assets in Japan, including some 50,000 US defence personnel.

The long-time self-imposed constraints on Japan’s defence spending, keeping it to less than one per cent of GDP, are also likely to be breached soon. The LDP under Kishida’s leadership has promoted for the first time the idea of spending two per cent of GDP in its policy documents just before the last general election in October 2021. Although such a change seems unlikely any time soon due to Japan’s poor fiscal health and significant public opposition, defence spending will definitely increase, as it has over the past decade.

Japan, along with Germany, has often been recognised as an example of a “civilian state”. Germany currently hosts US nuclear weapons facilities and, in view of the Ukraine conflict, has announced a significant increase to its defence budget. Calls are now being made to urge Japan to follow suit.

The postwar US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security has ensured that Japan has lived happily under US extended deterrence, including the nuclear umbrella. This arrangement is unlikely to change, barring an existential threat to Japan’s territory and sovereignty. But what seemed to be taboo in terms of Japan’s strategic policy – that is, breaching one per cent of GDP on defence spending and developing strike capabilities – is now being discussed seriously. No policy in international relations is eternal, it must change as a nation’s interests change.

March 16, 2022 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Pope Francis calls for a ‘world without nuclear weapons’ during Nagasaki visit

Pope Francis speaking at the Nagasaki hypocenter memorial. Photograph: Ciro Fusco/EPA
November 24, 2019
Pontiff urges disarmament as he tours Japan’s atomic bomb sites and meets survivors of the 1945 attacks
Pope Francis has condemned the “unspeakable horror” of nuclear weapons during a visit to Nagasaki, one of two Japanese cities destroyed by American atomic bombs towards the end of the second world war.
Speaking on the second day of the first papal visit to Japan for 38 years, Francis urged world leaders to end the stockpiling of nuclear weapons, saying it offered their nations a false sense of security.
“Convinced as I am that a world without nuclear weapons is possible and necessary, I ask political leaders not to forget that these weapons cannot protect us from current threats to national and international security,” he told hundreds of people at the city’s rain-drenched atomic bomb hypocenter park on Sunday.
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Earlier, Francis had placed a wreath and prayed at the foot of a memorial to the 74,000 people who died instantly and in the months after the US dropped a nuclear bomb on Nagasaki on 9 August 1945, three days after it had carried out a nuclear attack on Hiroshima, in which 140,000 people died by the end of the year.
“This place makes us deeply aware of the pain and horror that we human beings are capable of inflicting upon one another,” Francis said, standing next to a large photograph of a young boy carrying his dead baby brother on his back at a crematorium in the aftermath of the attack on Nagasaki.
Francis was given the photograph several years ago and has since distributed tens of thousands of copies. He was due to meet the widow and son of Joe O’Donnell, the American military photographer who took it.
A photo taken by US marine Joe O’Donnell, showing a boy carrying his dead brother on his back after the Nagasaki bombing. Photograph: Vincenzo Pinto/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
The 82-year-old pontiff, who will visit Hiroshima later Sunday, has long been a vocal opponent of nuclear weapons. The Holy See was among the first countries to sign and ratify a 2017 nuclear prohibition treaty. But nuclear powers, and countries such as Japan that fall under the US nuclear umbrella, have refused to sign it.
“In a world where millions of children and families live in inhumane conditions, the money that is squandered and the fortunes made through the manufacture, upgrading, maintenance and sale of ever more destructive weapons, are an affront crying out to heaven,” Francis said.
He urged world leaders to recommit to arms control efforts and the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons. “We need to ponder the catastrophic impact of their deployment, especially from a humanitarian and environmental standpoint, and reject heightening a climate of fear, mistrust and hostility fomented by nuclear doctrines.”
A survivor of the Nagasaki bombing said he hoped the pope’s words would make nuclear powers think seriously about disarmament. Describing his experience 74 years ago as “a living hell,” Minoru Moriuchi, an 82-year-old Catholic, said: “My father’s sister ran away to our house with her two children and I never forgot the sight – their bodies were reddish-black and completely burnt.
“Four other relatives were brought in … but they didn’t look like humans,” he told Agence France-Presse.
In Hiroshima, Francis was due to meet ageing survivors of the atomic bombings – the hibakusha – at the city’s peace memorial park.
The symbolism of his visit to Nagasaki extends beyond its tragic place in wartime history.
Francis was scheduled to pay tribute at a site in the city devoted to martyrs among Japan’s earliest Christians, whose religion was banned by the country’s shogun rulers in the early 1600s. Suspected believers were forced to renounce their faith or be tortured to death. Many continued to worship in secret, as “hidden Christians” until the ban was lifted in the late 1800s.
Francis is the first pope to visit Japan – where there are fewer than half a million Catholics – since 1981, when John Paul II traveled to Nagasaki and Hiroshima to call for the abolition of nuclear weapons amid cold war tensions between the US and the Soviet Union.
On Monday, Francis will meet survivors of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, as well as Japan’s new emperor, Naruhito, and the prime minister, Shinzo Abe.

November 25, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Commercial plutonium a bomb material

p8-gilinsky-a-20170601-870x580.jpgThe Rokkasho nuclear fuel reprocessing plant under construction in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture. Japan currently possesses 48 tons of reactor-grade plutonium

Reprocessed nuclear fuel can be used to make effective and powerful nuclear weapons

You would think that by now, in discussing the future of Japan’s plutonium stockpile, one fact would be incontrovertible: Commercial plutonium — often called reactor-grade plutonium — can be used as an effective nuclear explosive material in weapons. We are not talking about simple or primitive nuclear weapons, but modern weapons comparable in sophistication and performance to those held in the arsenals of the major nuclear powers.

Yet despite the availability of public information and repeated statements by knowledgeable officials, the advocates of commercial plutonium use as fuel still refuse to acknowledge the point. The respected Council for Nuclear Fuel Cycle (CNFC) prominently displays on its website an article that dismisses concerns expressed by nuclear experts over stockpiles of Japanese plutonium separated from power reactor fuel. The Tokyo-based CNFC specifically criticizes expert statements at meetings in Japan in 2015. As we were among those experts expressing concern at those meetings, we think it is important to explain why CNFC is wrong.

It is understandable that CNFC defends commercial use of plutonium. The organization believes that plutonium use is essential to long-term reliance on nuclear energy. It has been devoted for many years, in its own words, to “promotion of peaceful uses of plutonium.” It has relied on the assumption that plutonium from Japan’s nuclear power reactors — of the so-called light water reactor (LWR) type — cannot be used for bombs. The fact that it is now clear such plutonium is useful for bombs threatens the foundation of CNFC’s thinking. It is difficult to convince the public that a plan to use many tons of nuclear explosives to fuel power plants is an entirely peaceful one when 1 ton could be used to produce over 100 nuclear warheads. The usability of reactor-grade plutonium for weapons thus threatens the whole nuclear fuel-cycle concept of CNFC. This includes not only extraction of plutonium by reprocessing and recycling it in LWRs, but also the planned use of plutonium from LWRs to fuel a future generation of fast breeder reactors — the ultimate goal of plutonium advocates.

CNFC is naturally looking for some way to protect its traditional position on the necessity to use plutonium fuel in the face of undeniable facts about plutonium’s weapon usefulness. The council has been forced to concede that it is indeed possible to use reactor-grade plutonium for a nuclear “device.” But it seizes on the difference between weapon-grade plutonium and reactor-grade plutonium, the latter coming from spent fuel that has been irradiated for a much longer time than weapon-grade plutonium produced in military production reactors. The reactor-grade material contains an admixture of undesirable plutonium isotopes (other forms of plutonium). CNFC insists the use of it for an explosive device poses difficult technical problems. Such a device, in its view, would be too heavy and bulky and dangerous to be a practical weapon. No country has created an arsenal of such weapons, from which CNFC concludes it would be “absurd” to think any country would do so in the future. It goes on to flatly predict: “Nuclear weapons will never be made from plutonium extracted from LWR fuels.”

The problem is that CNFC’s thinking regarding the technical characteristics of nuclear weapons is 70 years out of date, and simplistic as a result. The additional plutonium isotopes in reactor-grade plutonium increase the radioactivity, and therefore also the heat output, of the material. But nuclear- weapon designers have found ways to keep the devices from overheating, without significantly adding to the weight. And fabricators can easily cope with the additional radioactivity.

Some of the additional isotopes spontaneously release neutrons. In the first nuclear- weapon designs this neutron background would tend to initiate a chain reaction too early and thus tend to reduce the yield of the explosion and make it less predictable. But this is an irrelevant consideration for the weapons use of this material by an industrially advanced country.

Quoting from the U.S. Department of Energy Publication — Nonproliferation and Arms Control Assessment of Weapons-Usable Fissile Material Storage and Excess Plutonium Disposition Alternatives dated January 1997: “Advanced nuclear weapon states such as the United States and Russia, using modern designs, could produce weapons from reactor-grade plutonium having reliable explosive yields, weight, and other characteristics generally comparable to those of weapons made from weapons-grade plutonium.”

Until now, CNFC has apparently been unaware of this. This should make CNFC aware of the essential equivalence of reactor grade and weapons grade plutonium for modern nuclear weapons use. One of us, having extensive experience in nuclear explosives design, can attest to the truth of this U.S. government statement.

We would urge CNFC and others who hold similar views to reflect on this and to reconsider their position on the weapon usability of reactor-grade plutonium. It may have been tenable years ago, but no longer. It would be a shame if those who guide Japan’s nuclear energy policy disregarded this fact out of suspicion that it is presented for political purposes. It is undeniable that reactor-grade plutonium — extracted from spent reactor fuel by reprocessing — can be used for effective and powerful nuclear weapons.

June 2, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Mounting evidence of long term harm of depleted uranium weapons

text-from-the-archivesThere is increasing worldwide support for a Depleted Uranium  ban….There is a du_roundsgrowing consensus among civil society groups, scientists and
some military organisations
that the health risks from DU have been seriously underestimated.

Latest documents advocating the ban of depleted uranium. By Jerry Mazza, Online Journal, 23 July 2010, US Armed Forces Radiobiology Institute Between 2000 and 2003, Dr Alexandra Miller of AFFRI was at the forefront of US Government sponsored research into DU�s chemical toxicity and radioactivity. Through a series of peer-reviewed papers, Dr Miller and her colleagues demonstrated for the first time that internalised DU oxides could result in �a significant enhancement of urinary mutagenicity,� that they can transform human cells into cells capable of producing cancerous tumours,

……and that DU was capable of inducing DNA damage in the absence of significant radioactive decay, i.e. through its chemical toxicity alone. In one study, 76% of mice implanted with DU pellets developed leukaemia.
International response

�There is increasing worldwide support for a DU ban. In 2007 Belgium became the first country in the world to ban all conventional weapons containing uranium with �other states set to follow their example. Meanwhile the Italian government agreed to a 170m Euro compensation package for personnel exposed to uranium weapons in the Balkans.

Later that year the UN General Assembly passed a resolution highlighting serious health concerns over DU and in May 2008, 94% of MEPs in the European Parliament strengthened four previous calls for a moratorium by calling for a DU ban treaty in a wide-ranging resolution. In December 2008 141 states in the UN General Assembly ordered the World Health Organisation, International Atomic Energy Agency and United Nations Environment Programme to update their positions on the long-term health and environmental threat that uranium weapons pose.

The solution

With more than 100 member organisations worldwide, ICBUW represents the best opportunity yet to achieve a global ban on the use of uranium in all conventional weapon systems. Even though the use of weapons containing uranium should already be illegal under International Humanitarian, Human Rights and Environmental Laws, an explicit treaty, as has been seen with chemical and biological weapons, landmines and cluster bombs, has proved the best solution for confirming their illegality. Such a treaty would not only outlaw the use of uranium weapons, but would include the prohibition of their production, the destruction of stockpiles, the decontamination of battlefields and rules on compensation for victims.

ICBUW has prepared a draft treaty, which contains a general and comprehensive prohibition of the development, production, transport, storage, possession, transfer and use of uranium ammunition.

There is a growing consensus among civil society groups, scientists and
some military organisations
that the health risks from DU have been seriously underestimated. Establishment scientific bodies have been slow to react to the wealth of new research into DU and policy makers have been content to ignore the claims of researchers and activists. Deliberate obfuscation by the mining, nuclear and arms industries has further hampered efforts to recognise the problem and achieve a ban. The past failure of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional �Weapons to deal with landmines and cluster bombs suggests that an independent treaty process is the best route to limiting the further use and proliferation of uranium weapons.

As enshrined in the Geneva Conventions, the methods and means of warfare are not unlimited. We must not allow the short term military advantage claimed for uranium weapons to override our responsibility for the long-term welfare of people and planet.

Latest documents advocating the ban of depleted uranium

December 19, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, depleted uranium, Uranium | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear pact’s future could emerge in Abe-Trump talks, arms remarks to complicate talks on U.S.-Japan deal ending in ’18


Troops from the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military carry out a joint exercise on Ukibaru Island, Okinawa Prefecture, on Monday.

When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meets with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in New York next week, both men will size up each other and discuss the bilateral relationship and the challenges that lie ahead.

One challenge, whether it’s on the agenda or not, will be the future direction of Japan’s nuclear power program.

With a key 1988 bilateral agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear power due to expire in July 2018, Tokyo and Washington next year will have to begin addressing the question of what, exactly, Japan’s nuclear policy should be.

Renegotiating the treaty is also sure to raise questions about the possibility of Japan using nuclear materials for military purposes, especially as Trump made contradictory statements about the possibility of arming Japan with nuclear weapons.

In an April TV interview, he suggested that Japan might defend itself from North Korea’s nuclear weapons by way of a nuclear arsenal of its own. That comment came a few weeks after another television interview in which he said that it is time to reconsider America’s policy of not allowing Japan to arm itself with nuclear weapons because it is going to happen anyway, and is only a question of time.

Trump later claimed that his opponents were misrepresenting his position. In the weeks before Tuesday’s election, he toned down his rhetoric on nuclear weapons use in general.

Japan’s reply to Trump was that it would continue to maintain its three non-nuclear principles of not manufacturing, possessing, or introducing nuclear weapons.

Now, with the agreement’s extension soon to become an issue in the bilateral relationship, experts are wondering how Trump, when he is president, will handle negotiations.

“I have absolutely no idea what position the Trump administration will adopt. It’s pretty clear their issues team hasn’t thought through things like this,” says James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program and senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The U.S. has a long-standing policy against the accumulation of plutonium, but Japan already has about 48 tons stockpiled domestically and in Europe, and how it will consume or disposed of it remains uncertain.

“Japan has plans to produce more plutonium in the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant. Given how few MOX-burning reactors will be operating in the foreseeable future, there is a very serious risk of a large imbalance between plutonium supply and demand,” Acton said, using the acronym for mixed uranium-plutonium oxide fuel. “I suspect the U.S. will use the occasion of the agreement’s renewal to try and address this problem.”

The Rokkasho plant is in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture.

Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany, says Trump has created an unprecedented degree of uncertainty in Japan about nuclear cooperation in general.

“Regardless of what position the new U.S. administration takes with regard to renewing the 1988 agreement, it is Japan, with its 48 tons of separated plutonium and no peaceful use plans, together with the nations of East Asia, that need to take a leadership role in reducing the risks from nuclear power. That includes terminating Rokkasho,” Burnie said.

The 1988 agreement came about after concerns in the U.S. that Japan was pursuing a plutonium program that could lead to proliferation issues, and a desire by Japan to make it easier to obtain U.S. approval for nuclear material shipments to Japan from Europe, as required by a previous agreement. In turn, the U.S. got more say in the inspection and security requirements for nuclear facilities in Japan.

The agreement also clearly emphasized it was only for the peaceful uses of power.

Article 8 of the agreement specifically bans the transfer of nuclear material to Japan (or from Japan to the U.S.) for use in nuclear explosive devices, for research specifically on, or development of, nuclear devices, and for military purposes.

“The U.S. does not think that Japan is looking to possess nuclear weapons. But holding so much plutonium, like Japan does, sets a very bad example for other countries and creates great concerns in the U.S. about the problem of nuclear terrorism,” wrote Tetsuya Endo, former deputy chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission in a March article for the Tokyo-based Institute for Peace Policies.

Nuclear pact’s future could emerge in Abe-Trump talks

November 13, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Japan’s defense chief stands by past statement on nuclear armament


A member of Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force takes part in a joint military exercise. Japan’s defense chief is under fire for previously suggesting a nuclear strategy for the country, and for saying a military conscription policy would not violate Japan’s constitution.

TOKYO, Oct. 12 (UPI) — Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada is standing firm after opposition party politicians in Tokyo asked her to retract remarks on nuclear armament.
In an interview with Japanese magazine Seiron in March 2011, Inada had said that in the long term Japan should look into a nuclear strategy, the Tokyo Shimbun reported Wednesday.
Inada, who was appointed defense minister in August, was a lawmaker with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party at the time and has served as a Cabinet member under Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Shinkun Haku, a Japanese politician of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, criticized Inada’s past statement.
“That someone with such a personal opinion became the defense chief is a problem,” Haku said, while urging Inada to retract her previous remarks.
Japan is a signatory of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and relies on the U.S. extended nuclear deterrent.
But Inada said she has no plans to withdraw the statement because the remarks were made in the context of the situation at the time, according to the Japanese newspaper.
Inada also said she is not retracting remarks she made in the interview about implementing a military conscription policy because she “doesn’t think the draft violates the constitution.”
Tokyo is concerned about North Korea’s multiple provocations and Chinese vessels that have entered Japan-claimed waters near the disputed Senkaku Islands.
In early September, a Japanese command to “destroy” incoming North Korea missiles repeatedly failed when North Korea launched three ballistic missiles that landed west of Hokkaido.
North Korea’s provocations continue to have an impact on Japanese politicians, according to a recent poll conducted by television network NHK.
A survey of Japanese citizens conducted Oct. 9-11 showed support for Abe has fallen since early September, as North Korea provocations have subsided and the country has not engaged in further tests during a national anniversary on Oct. 10.
Support for Abe was about 60 percent in September, but that figure was down by about 7 percentage points, according to the NHK poll.”

October 14, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Lesson from Nagasaki: Lighten up on Dark Tourism

“I see those people from Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the news every year and I wonder why they just can’t let it go. Hasn’t it been long enough already?”

These words were spoken to my wife recently by a Japanese co-worker when we returned from Nagasaki. This attitude might seem startling to peace activists in Japan and throughout the world who participate in memorial events every year on August 6th and 9th, but it is a sobering reminder that many people in Japan and throughout the world have let the memory fade, not even knowing what they don’t know about the perils of nuclear weapons as they exist in today’s world.

In a consumer society based on employment in a military economy, the institutions people pass through in their formative years do very little to teach history, political consciousness or the meaning of citizenship. Whatever lessons exist are delivered as tedious, obligatory lectures, followed by multiple choice tests. Lessons might also have come from elders in the form of scoldings about how tough things were during the war, how “you youngsters” have no idea and so on. The only thing worse than no history lessons is bad history lessons. Japanese people, in particular, may be inured to them because of an overdose of obligatory exposure to the rituals of remembrance.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki also invoke uncomfortable feelings of shame about losing the war, and shame about responsibility for it. The hibakusha and all the memorials in the two bombed cities evoke these conflicted feelings, so many Japanese would rather turn away, just as many Americans would rather turn away for inverse reasons.

While living in Japan I have met people who talked about visiting Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but they never mentioned the atom bomb. The only thing they wanted to talk about was the local foods they ate, or maybe a visit to Dejima, the old Dutch and Portuguese trading post in Nagasaki that used to be the most famous thing about the city. They talked about these visits like they would talk about a visit to any other place. Likewise, residents of the two cities have millions of good reasons to appreciate everything that happened before the war and after it, all the things that make their cities just like other cities. No one wants their city to be just about that one traumatic thing that happened one day long ago.

I had lived in Japan for many years before I visited either Hiroshima or Nagasaki, partly because I had other priorities, and partly because it just felt a little strange to visit a place just for that. I knew the history quite well, but I still questioned my motives. I finally went when I had someone to visit there, someone who just happened to be a historian who specialized in the cultural impacts of nuclear technology.

That was Robert Jacobs, who was interviewed on a local Hiroshima English language podcast shortly after President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima on May 27, 2016. During the interview he shed some light on why people are becoming less reluctant to visit traumatized places and engage in what has recently become known as “dark tourism:”

I met a religious studies scholar… who said… dark tourism has replaced religious pilgrimage… Going to places where history happened, especially traumatic history happened… gives your life more authenticity… This has been on the rise, and it’s partly a way to infuse our lives with meaning and connection to a world that is often at a distance from us…  to infuse your own life with a deeper sense of the importance of peace because you’ve been to some place where peace is so important. It’s an emotional and a spiritual renewal to go to places like that, and the use of the word “dark” doesn’t mean that there is a dark meaning. It just means that it’s sites of historical trauma. People go there not to gawk at trauma or death but because these are the sites that resonate in our mythology of the world we live in. Religious sites don’t resonate so much the way that they used to, but people like to visit places that give their lives a sense of being connected to mythic things. In our lives the mythic things are often large historical tragedies, and in coming to a place like Hiroshima… “dark” just implies a place where a dark thing happened, but the motives of the people who come here is to increase their sense of connectedness and their sense of meaning… People will invoke having been to Hiroshima as a means of having authority. They will say, “I’ve been to Hiroshima… I can tell you about how bad nuclear weapons are…” These are empowering reasons that people visit… The phrase “dark tourism” certainly doesn’t imply that the motives of people are in any way dark. [1]

There could be a downside to claiming authority just because one has visited a place where something bad happened. It depends on what one learns about the entire context of the traumatic event. Visitors to Hiroshima could leave with widely divergent interpretations of what happened there in 1945. In the end there is much to be said for a pilgrimage to a local library in order to connect and infuse one’s life with a deeper connection to history.

I can say that my visits to Hiroshima and Nagasaki achieved something that was missing in all that I knew about what happened there in August 1945. No matter how much I had learned from books and films and second-hand reports, it didn’t become fully real in a certain sense until I could confirm it with my own senses, when I stood at ground zero, walked through the cities, visited the museums, and talked to eyewitnesses to the events. That’s what is meant by “connection.”

One of the great things about both cities is the streetcars. They still run down the routes that existed in 1945, and though they must have been rebuilt and refurbished many times since then, they haven’t been modernized. They look, and feel, and sound just like the streetcars of old, and they are the means by which most visitors get from the central train stations to the atomic bomb memorial sites.


On August 8th I rode the streetcar in Nagasaki with my wife and son, from downtown to the Urakami district where the museum and hypocenter are located. As we got closer the streetcar became very crowded, as groups of students were in town to attend the annual memorial the next day. I was standing, and my wife and son were sitting. A white-haired woman in her late eighties got on. She was stooping over a cane, but she pushed her way through the crowded aisle with considerable force. I tapped my son and told him to give up his seat. She took it with quick smile of gratitude then immediately began to talk to my wife:

Everyone’s going to the Peace Park today. That’s good. Good to see so many young people here… I wasn’t here that day. I was living down the line in Sasebo, but I had been called up to work in a factory here. For some reason I didn’t have to go to work that day. But then later I was told to get to Nagasaki and report for work. I got down to Sasebo station, and when that train from Nagasaki came in, people just fell out of it and collapsed right there on the platform, never got up again. Piles of them, blackened and sick. They just spilled out of the train car. I’ve never seen people in such a horrid state. Every city was getting bombed. We expected it, but obviously something very strange had happened in Nagasaki. I didn’t ride the train that day, but I went later… Sorry, I’m talking a lot, but I have to. Tomorrow the prime minister will come and make his speech again. So useless. We are really disappointed in him. I never used to talk to strangers like this, but now I talk to everyone because we have to. There are so few of us left.

Obviously, this is a translation and a paraphrase of a conversation recalled by my wife and related to me when we got off the streetcar. The reader may think I’ve embellished it, but this was the gist of it: the determination to tell the story, the need to condemn the present direction of the country, and thus the loss of all concern about what anyone might think about the unsolicited sharing of these stories with strangers on a streetcar. Looking back on it now, it seems to be the best way to explain to that smug, ignorant co-worker why people can’t and don’t have to “just get over it.” The experience also taught me why people should dare to be “dark tourists” and take in everything they see and hear when they visit places of historical trauma, whether it’s Auschwitz, Hiroshima or Wounded Knee. In this case, there was nothing like getting the story firsthand on a Nagasaki streetcar.

Our short visit to the city had other highlights. I was invited to join a study tour led by the historian of American University, Peter Kuznick (co-author of The Untold History of the United States), and there I met his students and others from Kyoto’s Ritsumeikan University. A famous spokesperson for the  hibakusha community was also there, 71-year-old Koko Tanimoto Kondo, who has devoted her life to speaking about the atomic bombings in both Japanese and English. Her father was Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto, [2] a Methodist minister who was portrayed in John Hersey’s Hiroshima, the first report that exposed American audiences to the horror of what had happened on the ground on August 6th, 1945. [3][4] Reverend Tanimoto began a campaign to have nations dedicate August 6th as World Peace Day, and Koko, who was only eight months old at the end of the war, continued her father’s mission as she grew older.

Another hibakusha, Kazutoshi Otsuka, spoke to the study group about the life he has devoted to telling the world about the necessity of abolishing nuclear weapons. He was ten years old at the time of the blast, and survived because he was at the edge of the zone of worst damage and was indoors at the time. He emerged from the debris that had fallen over him to find the city in ruins, utterly transformed from what it had been just a short time ago. The downtown area had been spared, but in Urakami almost all the buildings and thousands of people had just vanished. The last human voice he heard before the blast was his friend calling from outside, “The cicadas are singing. Let’s go catch some.” Did he die instantly in the blast? Did he run home and get caught in the fires? Did he die more slowly from radiation? Mr. Otsuka searched for his friend for a long time afterward, but it became obvious that he had vanished on the wind just like the last words he had spoken. For seventy-one years, while he has told his story to all who will listen, Mr. Otsuka has carried with him those simple words of invitation from his friend to enjoy a summer day.

The most famous icon of the atomic attacks is the Hiroshima Dome, one of the few structures left standing, but one which was almost demolished in the rush to rebuild the city and erase all signs of what had happened there. Those who wanted it saved had a hard time convincing city hall that it would be worthwhile to preserve it. There is nothing similar in Nagasaki, except for some portions of the walls of Shiroyama Elementary School near the hypocenter. Like the dome in Hiroshima, its position directly under the blast allowed it to be not completely demolished by the lateral blast force. After the fires were out, the remnants of the school on a small hill stood as the only desolate reminder of all that had been in this section of the city called Urakami. However, it wasn’t as photogenic as the Hiroshima Dome, and Nagasaki is more out of the way and receives fewer visitors, so it never became an iconic symbol of the atom bomb. In any case, the rebuilt school still functions as a school, so it wouldn’t be able to deal with a constant stream of visitors.


The original wall with the new school built around it.

We learned that every year on August 9th the school holds a remembrance ceremony for students, the community, and any visitors who wish to attend. The students all come back for a day from their summer vacations and dress up in formal attire in the 30-degree humidity. It is a mourning ceremony, so the adults wear black funeral suits and dresses.

My wife and I decided to get up early on the 9th and take our son to the ceremony. We had attended many Japanese school ceremonies with our children before, and this one was just like all the rest, but so different from all others as well.

A steep staircase leads up to the school, and Koko Tanimoto was already there at the top, beaming a welcoming smile to us. There was something from her father in that smile because she made it feel like we were being welcomed to church on a Sunday morning. We walked around the grounds and looked inside the restored section that holds artifacts and memorials for the disappeared. In a grove of trees just off the sports ground they still sometimes find bone chips a few inches down in the soil.


After the ceremony, a teacher talks to a group of students about the grove. 

In his speech at the ceremony, the principal said everything one would expect at such an occasion, going over the events of that day and the weeks and months that followed, and the eventual rebuilding of the school and the city. Several times he mentioned “passing the baton,” stressing to the children their heavy responsibility to carry on the memory that all other graduates of the school have carried into their adult lives.


Shiroyama Elementary School, in the days after the bombing.

Around the third time I heard that word baton, I began to feel uneasy about it. I started to wonder how many people had gone through that school wondering “Why us?” They didn’t drop the bomb. They didn’t ask for this burden, and they must wonder why the whole country and the whole world is not doing more to pass this baton to future generations. I didn’t visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or make friends in the peace movement, suffering from any delusions that it is easy to change the world. I think most of my fellow travelers and the hibakusha feel the same. We know what we are up against, and we know how badly the masters of war have betrayed us. The hibakusha’s commitment to peace makes for a paradoxical taboo against expressing anger and rage, but I suspect the survivors have reached old age bitterly aware that the world has done far too little to act on their call for the elimination of nuclear weapons. It must feel like cruel mockery as they reach their later years. There were many hopeful periods, such as the thaw between Khrushchev and Kennedy that was emerging just before JFK’s assassination, or the end of the Warsaw Pact in the late 1980s, but each time, to borrow a line from Leonard Cohen, the holy dove was caught again, bought and sold, and bought again. [5]

There must have been very many angry hibakusha over the decades, people who kept their rage contained within them, people who drank, people who became outcasts or extremists, but the openly angry people never got invited to official ceremonies. One can only speculate about the motives of the anonymous person who threatened to bomb Shiroyama Elementary School and other schools in Nagasaki in August 2016 (at least there was an advance warning), but it speaks to a very perverse disdain that exists in some people toward the victims rather than the perpetrators. [6]

Overt anger has been kept out of sight, but an acceptable outlet for covert anger is mainstream politics, where those in the ruling party dream of restoring the glory of the empire and their notion of “national honor” while accumulating plutonium from “the peaceful atom” and biding their time under American subservience. This is how contemporary Japanese society developed its neurotic ambivalence about its history and place in the world.

The various forms of anger have been reported by other writers who know the experiences of hibakusha well. Shortly after President Obama’s speech in Hiroshima, the journalist and filmmaker John Pilger had this to say:

… the cynicism of great power and great reckless power, in many respects is expressed at Hiroshima where… all the evidence shows that both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were sacrificed as America’s first expressions of violent power in the Cold War that was then underway. So for Obama to go and talk about the atomic bombs as if God dropped them… He used the passive voice… and really quite vomitus language like “we must have the courage to care.” So [according to Obama] no one dropped the atomic bombs. The United States certainly didn’t kill all those hundreds of thousands of people. It didn’t cause all that suffering. It’s something that we should all express sympathy to. It was like a kind of high mass and the great divinity was there, but not the United States. That [the US] is not to blame. That’s been Obama’s role as a PR man extraordinaire, and he came into power and people fell on their knees… This was a kind of second coming. There was a problem for the last few years with re-igniting Afghanistan and Iraq, and destroying Libya and so on, but the fawning has begun again as Obama’s time in office nears an end, and for people, for journalists to report–as I say the deeply cynical action of Obama and the United States in Hiroshima the other day–to report it without the context of all those survivors–and I’ve interviewed many of them–of how angry they were… they’re polite people and they’re very elderly… but they were angry. [7]

Two months later The Mainichi reported more precisely on this anger in describing how the secretary-general of the Japan Confederation of A-and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations regretted his initial praise of Obama’s speech when he had time to read an accurate translation the next day:

Terumi Tanaka, 84, was in attendance on May 27 this year when Obama was making what was the first visit of a sitting U.S. president to Hiroshima…

There was an interpreter for Obama’s speech, but the speech was not handed out on paper… Sentences from the latter part of the speech, such as his reference to a future in which “Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known … as the start of our own moral awakening,” had stuck with him, and he praised the sentence as “excellent words.” He noted, however, that he was “disappointed” that Obama had said, “We may not realize this goal (of a world without nuclear weapons) in my lifetime.” The next morning… Tanaka opened a page containing the Japanese translation of the speech. It began, “Seventy-one years ago, on a bright cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed.” Tanaka was stunned. “Death did not ‘fall from the sky.’ This is making the death abstract. This is absolutely unacceptable,” Tanaka thought. While on board the train he opened his laptop and began to write his “Essay of Regret.” As he typed, erased and retyped, he says, “I began to get angry and stopped midway. They ‘created’ the death. As a sign of apology, I want them to eliminate nuclear weapons,” he says. [8]

Another expression of this anger came from Setsuko Thurlow, a hibakusha who has lived for many years in Toronto. She was received at the White House in June, where she met the man who wrote the Hiroshima speech and hand-delivered a message for the president in which she listed the concrete measures that need to be taken to make the speech amount to more than aspirational fluff:

  1. Stop the U.S. boycott of international nuclear disarmament meetings and join the 127 countries that have endorsed the Humanitarian Pledge to create a new legal instrument and new norms for a nuclear weapons ban treaty as a first step in their elimination and prohibition.
  2. Stop spending money to modernize the US nuclear arsenal, a staggering $1 trillion over the next three decades, and use this money to meet human needs and protect our environment.
  3. Take nuclear weapons off high alert and review the aging command and control systems that have been the subject of recent research exposing a culture of neglect and the alarming regularity of accidents involving nuclear weapons. [9]

Much more could be said by the hibakusha community about issues not relating directly to disarmament, such as the worsening mistrust between the nuclear powers and the proliferation of conventional military power that leads so many nations to favor the “cheap and easy” asymmetrical nuclear deterrent. [10] The obstacles to peace are stacked high, and anger seems to be the only logical response. But I will hold onto the memory of  Koko Tanimoto smiling at the top of those stairs at Shiroyama, greeting the late pilgrims like me who’ve finally decided to make this simple journey.


[1] J.J. Walsh, interviewer, “Professor Bo Jacobs on the Obama Visit,” Get Hiroshima, May 30, 2016, 18:00~

[2] “Hiroshima Survivor Meets Enola Gay Pilot,” This is Your Life, 1955. The full interview with Reverend Tanimoto can be viewed on YouTube.

[3] Robert Jacobs, “Reconstructing the Perpetrator’s Soul by Reconstructing the Victim’s Body: The Portrayal of the ‘Hiroshima Maidens’ by the Mainstream Media in the United States,” Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific, Issue 24, June 2010.

[4] Tadatoshi Akiba, L. Wittner and T. Taue, “Why Hiroshima and Nagasaki Day Events Matter,” Asia Pacific Journal, August 1, 2007.

[5] Leonard Cohen, “Anthem,” The Future, Columbia Records, 1992.

[6] “‘Hibakusha’ talks scrapped after Nagasaki bomb threat,” Asahi Shinbun, August 18, 2016.

[7] Afshin Rattansi, interviewer, “ISIS in Fallujah & World War III with John Pilger (Episode 350 of Going Underground),” Russia Today, June 4, 2016. What John Pilger described as a “passive voice” construction could more accurately be called a usage of an intransitive verb which conceals the agent of the action. The speech writer had various syntactical choices available: President Truman ordered the bombs to be dropped or The crew of the Enola Gay dropped the bomb, The bomb fell or, at the level of greatest possible abstraction, Death fell from the sky.

[8] Terumi Tanaka, “Hibakusha: A-bomb sufferers’ group official regrets praising Obama speech,” The Mainichi, August 2, 2016.

[9] To Barack Obama from Setsuko Thurlow, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, August 6, 2016.

[10] Richard Rhodes, Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007), 101. Many who favor nuclear deterrence believe that it has prevented a third world war that would have been fought with a massive arsenal of conventional weapons, with millions of casualties. In this argument, a nuclear arsenal is preferable, and it comes at a bargain price for nations large and small. Rhodes’ book argues for abolition of nuclear arms, but he noted how their “low cost” (not considering what economists call “externalities”) became a rationale for their development: “Nuclear warheads cost the United States about $250,000 each: less than a fighter bomber, less than a missile, less than a patrol boat, less than a tank.”


Nuclear Free by 2045?

August 21, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Interview with professor Robert Jacobs: Must say no to a war more


by Uzaemonnaotsuka Toukai, Editorial Writer

People in Hiroshima, which marked the 71st anniversary of the atomic bombing, have still evaluated the visit by U.S. President Barack Obama highly. Meanwhile, there is still a long way to go to realize the abolition of nuclear weapons in international society. The Chugoku Shimbun interviewed Robert Jacobs, 56, a professor at the Hiroshima Peace Institute of Hiroshima City University, about how we can fill the gap between real politics and the desire of people in the A-bombed cities. Mr. Jacobs has been living in Hiroshima for 11 years, and is familiar with American public opinion and pop culture concerning nuclear issues.

I have heard your own experiences as a child is the point of origin that has driven you to continue your research activity in the A-bombed Hiroshima.
When I was an elementary school student in Chicago, U.S., I went through a training similar to “Duck and Cover” every month. In the training, I practiced what to do when a nuclear weapon exploded. After my teacher told the students that a tremendous flash happened, we ducked on the floor all at once. I was scared, because I thought I was going to die soon. From 1950s to 1960s, conducting such a training was quite popular at schools in the U.S. As I couldn’t stop thinking about horrors of nuclear war, I read a lot of books on nuclear weapons. Then, I took part in the antinuclear movement in my teens, and I developed a strong belief that nuclear weapons must be eliminated. So, I think it was inevitable for me to come to Hiroshima.

What is your main research theme at the Hiroshima Peace Institute?
I have been studying how horrible results have been wrought by the development and testing of nuclear weapons, and how American and world culture and society have been affected by them. In addition, through a project titled “Global Hibakusha Project,” I have been investigating an initiative to connect the nuclear victims throughout the world. In the project, young people in Republic of the Marshall Islands, a nation which was involved in a U.S. hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll, and several other countries have been developed as memory keepers. They have also been interacting with the youth in Hiroshima via Skype, an internet video and also in person workshops.

As an American, what did you think about President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima?
It was a historic event. The U.S. media also reported it very positively. However, from my perspective, I am disappointed that he didn’t mention anything about a concrete path towards the abolition of nuclear weapons, including how American nuclear policy would be changed.

You mean a world without nuclear weapons cannot be realized soon.
Hiroshima has two significances to the U.S. While Hiroshima is known as a tragic city in the U.S. because of the atomic bombing, the U.S. used Hiroshima as an excuse to increase its nuclear arsenal during a cold war era. In those days, the U.S. government aroused its citizens’ sense of fear that the U.S. must have much more nuclear weapons than the former Soviet Union to not end up being like “Hiroshima.” Now, against a backdrop of a threat by the militant group known as the Islamic State, the nuclear weapons have gained prominent attention again. It could be a shocking fact to people in the A-bombed cities, but it’s still strongly believed in the U.S. that the nuclear weapons are necessary because of the tragedy, which occurred in Hiroshima.

Even if President Obama visited Hiroshima, the public opinion in the U.S. hasn’t been changed so much, has it?
In Japan, some people say that President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima has advanced a movement towards nuclear abolition. But I am afraid they may be too optimistic. Many Americans still believe they should maintain the option to keep nuclear weapons though they do also want to abolish them. It’s the same logic as the one for gun ownership: many U.S. households have a gun because they believe it might be necessary sometime in the future, although not everyone wants to use it.

If things are not changed, do you think a desire of people in Hiroshima to abolish nuclear weapons won’t take root in the nuclear nations?
You have to be more aware that a barrier to nuclear abolition, which the A-bombed cities should take focus on, is quite enormous. Even if a U.S. president advocates abolition of nuclear weapons, the real politics and military system won’t change so easily. The bottleneck is a giant military industry that has the power to influence the world of politics, and public opinion believing in nuclear deterrent force. I think just appealing for the inhumanity of nuclear weapons is not enough to fight against them.

Could you elaborate on it more?
I believe you should rather make an appeal based on the extensive moral framework of the whole society. As the living standard of the middle-class has declined in the U.S., more and more people have become pessimistic about their future. Meanwhile, the U.S. government is planning to spend a trillion dollars (about 100 trillion yen) for upgrading nuclear weapons over the next three decades. Is it acceptable to sacrifice living standard of people for such spending? Shouldn’t education and medical services be more prioritized than military affairs? Taking these perspectives into account, it’s important to appeal to international opinion opposing wars and military powers. If people in the A-bombed cities can collaborate with those working on these issues in the world, I believe you can generate a much bigger wave than now.


Robert Jacobs
Born in Chicago, the United States, Mr. Jacobs obtained a doctor’s degree at the University of Illinois, and came to Hiroshima in 2005 to serve as an instructor for the Hiroshima Peace Research Institute. He assumed his current post from this year. Studying history as his major, he has been researching the history and culture of nuclear technologies and nuclear victims. He has written books including “The Dragon’s Tail: Americans Face the Atomic Age.”

(Originally published on August 8, 2016)

August 20, 2016 Posted by | Nuclear | , , | Leave a comment

Nagasaki urges world to draw on wisdom to abolish nuclear weapons

Nagasaki one day after the atomic bombing seen in newly-discovered pictures..jpg


Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue on Tuesday urged the international community to draw upon its “collective wisdom” to realize a world without nuclear weapons, as the southwestern Japan city marked the 71st anniversary of its atomic bombing by the United States in the final stages of World War II.

In his Peace Declaration delivered at an annual ceremony in the city’s Peace Park, Taue said new frameworks aimed at containing nuclear proliferation are necessary if mankind is not to destroy its future. “Now is the time for all of you to bring together as much of your collective wisdom as you possibly can, and act,” he said.

Touching on a U.N. working group on nuclear disarmament being held in Geneva, Taue said the creation of the forum to recommend legal measures to bring about nuclear weapons abolition is “a huge step forward.”

But noting that many of the nuclear powers are not attending the debate, he said that without their participation, the discussions “will end without the creation of a roadmap for nuclear weapons abolition.”

Compared to a similar declaration issued by Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui three days earlier on the occasion of the western Japan city’s own anniversary of its 1945 A-bombing by the United States, Taue was more blunt in both his suggestions for steps to achieve a nuclear-free world and his criticism of the Japanese government.

Taue criticized Japan’s policy of advocating the elimination of nuclear weapons while relying on the United States for nuclear deterrence, calling it “contradictory.” He also urged the government to enshrine into law its three non-nuclear principles of not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons on Japanese territory, which are currently non-binding.

He further pressed the government to work to create what he called a “Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone” as a security framework that does not rely on nuclear deterrence.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in his speech, vowed to continue to make various efforts to bring about a “world free of nuclear weapons,” without referring to any concrete steps. His statements were almost identical to those he delivered during a similar ceremony in Hiroshima on Saturday.

Taue touched on the significance of U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Hiroshima in May, and called on the leaders of every country to visit Nagasaki and Hiroshima to see the reality of atomic bombings.

By visiting, the president exhibited to the world “the importance of seeing, listening, and feeling things for oneself,” Taue said, adding, “Knowing the facts becomes the starting point for thinking about a future free of nuclear weapons.”

Obama was the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima.

Taue, meanwhile, called on younger generations to listen to the testimonies of atomic-bomb survivors.

He also expressed his support for areas affected by the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster.

At 11:02 a.m., the exact time the bomb detonated over Nagasaki 71 years ago, participants at the ceremony offered silent prayers for the victims of the nuclear attack.

Three days after Hiroshima, the United States dropped a second nuclear bomb on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945. An estimated 74,000 people were killed by the end of the year.

The number of hibakusha—atomic bomb survivors with documents certifying that they experienced the nuclear attacks in 1945—at home and abroad stood at 174,080 as of March, and their average age was 80.86. The Nagasaki city government has confirmed the deaths of 3,487 hibakusha over the past year, bringing the death toll to 172,230.

August 9, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Abe rules out possibility that Japan will possess nuclear weapons

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.jpg

Abe rules out possibility that Japan will possess nuclear weapons

HIROSHIMA — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ruled out the possibility on Aug. 6 that Japan will arm itself with nuclear weapons in the future.

“There is no way that Japan will either possess nuclear weapons or consider possessing such arms,” Abe told a news conference in Hiroshima.

At a press conference on Aug. 3, newly appointed Defense Minister Tomomi Inada stopped short of denying the possibility that Japan will possess nuclear weapons in the future.

“Under the Constitution, there are no restrictions on the types of weapons that Japan can possess as the minimum necessary,” she said.

Regarding the defense minister’s remarks, Prime Minister Abe said, “Her statement is consistent with the government’s policy. I’d like her to do her best as a member of the Abe Cabinet to achieve a world without nuclear weapons.”

As for constitutional revisions, the prime minister called for rational discussions on the issue. “I hope that the matter will be seriously discussed in the calm environment of the commissions on the Constitution (of both houses of the Diet), and lead to national debate.”

Abe: Japan will never consider possessing nukes

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the country will never possess, or even consider possessing, nuclear weapons.
Abe spoke to reporters after a memorial ceremony for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Saturday.
He was asked about remarks by new Defense Minister Tomomi Inada that Japan should not consider the possession of nuclear arms at the moment.
Abe said that Inada’s comment is consistent with the government’s policy.
He said Japan, as the only country to have experienced atomic bombings, firmly upholds its 3 non-nuclear principles.
Abe said, “It is our responsibility to make continuous and determined efforts toward a world without nuclear weapons.”
Abe was also asked about the possibility of the constitution being revised. He said the matter should be discussed in a quiet environment, referring to Diet panels reviewing the constitution. He said lawmakers, regardless of their party affiliation, should express their views in serious discussions, leading to a national debate.

Abe calls for nuclear-free world in Hiroshima

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he is resolved to pursue a nuclear-free world and will do his best to achieve permanent peace.
The prime minister spoke on Saturday at a ceremony in Hiroshima to mark 71 years since the US atomic bombing of the city.
He referred to the visit in May of Barack Obama as the first incumbent US president to come to Hiroshima.
Abe said the leader of the sole nation to have used nuclear weapons saw the reality of the atomic bombing and urged nuclear powers to have the courage to achieve a world without such arms. Abe said he is sure that Obama’s speech gave hope to people around the world.
He said Japan, as the sole nation to have suffered atomic bombing, will adhere to its 3 non-nuclear principles of not having, not making and not bringing in nuclear arms. He said Japan will continue to stress the importance of maintaining and bolstering the framework of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Abe said he will call for cooperation from both nuclear and non-nuclear powers in an effort to create a nuclear-free world. He added he will urge world leaders and young people to learn about the misery caused by atomic bombing.
He pledged continuing support for Japan’s aging atomic bomb survivors.

August 7, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Japan Could Go Nuclear ‘Virtually Overnight’ Joe Biden Tells Chinese President


This undated picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 23, 2016 shows a test launch of the surface-to-surface medium long-range strategic ballistic missile Hwasong-10 at an undisclosed location in North Korea.The Musudan — also known as the Hwasong-10 — has a theoretical range of anywhere between 2,500 and 4,000 kilometres (1,550 to 2,500 miles).

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, never one for a loss of words, told Chinese President Xi Jinping that Japan has the capacity to acquire nuclear weapons “virtually overnight.”

Biden made his disclosure while giving a speech at a Public Broadcasting Service program aired on Monday. Biden said he had urged Xi to exert influence on North Korea so it will abandon its missile and nuclear weapons developments.

Referring to North Korea’s recent nuclear test and missile launches in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, Biden said that if China and the U.S. fail to take effective action against North Korea, “What happens if Japan, who could go nuclear tomorrow? They have the capacity to do it virtually overnight.” Biden did not say when his conversation with Xi took place.

Biden said that China had the single greatest ability to influence North Korea, adding that North Korea is building nuclear weapons that can strike as far away the U.S. mainland.

“And I say, so we’re going to move up our defense system,” the vice president added, referring to the U.S. plan to deploy THADD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense), an advanced missile interception system, in South Korea.

Biden quoted Xi as saying, “Wait a minute, my military thinks you’re going to try to circle us.”  Earlier this month China said that deploying THADD infringes on China’s strategic interests. 

The fact that Japan can easily develop nuclear weapons, however, isn’t the issue but the fact that Biden chose to tell Xi this is worthy of note, both in the context of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and given Biden’s history of frequently making gaffes.

June 26, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Japan’s Constitution Allows Nuclear Weapons, Says Shinzo Abe


Japan’s constitution does not ban the country from having nuclear weapons, contrary to popular belief, officials under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe insisted recently.

The Japanese Cabinet wrote in a response to lawmakers’ inquiries Friday that the nation could own and use nukes, the Asahi Shimbun of Tokyo reported. But it then noted that the government “firmly maintains a policy principle that it does not possess nuclear weapons of any type under the three non-nuclear principles.”

The statement concerned Article 9 of Japan’s constitution, which condemns war and establishes the country as a pacifist nation. The 1947 regulation prohibits Japan, the only country to suffer atomic attack, from having a traditional military and also renounces offensive weapons, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

The provision has been reinterpreted over the past few decades, most recently by Abe, who in 2012 started his second period as prime minister. In July 2014, Abe allowed Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to become more assertive and militarily assist foreign countries, in part to strengthen the relationship between Japan and the United States, the New York Times reported.

Last week, Abe’s government referenced a 1978 address by then-Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda suggesting that nuclear weapons were constitutionally acceptable, the Asahi Shimbun reported. “Even if it involves nuclear weapons, the constitution does not necessarily ban the possession of them as long as they are restricted to such a minimum necessary level,” it read.

Jun Okumura, a scholar at Tokyo’s Meiji Institute for Global Affairs, told the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong the recent announcement was likely “something of a surprise to the Japanese public.” But residents might not need to worry: Yasuhisa Kawamura, a representative of the Foreign Ministry, declared at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington Friday that “it is unthinkable that Japan use or possess nuclear weapons,” USA Today reported.

Japan’s defense policy also made international news recently when American presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested Japan and South Korea start to protect themselves “against this maniac in North Korea” (dictator Kim Jong Un) instead of relying on U.S. troops, according to CNN.

April 21, 2016 Posted by | Japan | | 1 Comment

Osaka governor says Japan should debate need for nuclear weapons

OSAKA – Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui, the head of Osaka Ishin no Kai, has voiced support for a national debate on whether or not Japan should possess nuclear weapons.

“With the perfect right to collective self-defense, we should debate whether our troops can completely cover the needs of our own country,” Matsui said during an informal meeting with reporters Tuesday at Osaka’s prefectural office. “If we possess weapons, the ultimate weapon will become necessary.”

The call for a national debate follows comments made by U.S. Republican presidential candidate and front-runner Donald Trump in an interview with The New York Times where he said he would be open to both Japan and South Korea possessing nuclear weapons and the U.S. withdrawing its forces from the two Asian countries.

Touching on Trump’s statement, Matsui said he thought it would be best if Japan did not possess a nuclear arsenal, as it had been bombed by such weapons.

But, in calling for debate on the issue, he added: “What do we do if America’s military strength (in Japan) disappears? Wishful thinking doesn’t get us anywhere.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesman, has said in the past that Japan will maintain the three nonnuclear principles that prohibit it from owning, developing and transporting nuclear weapons.

Matsui’s comments also came the same day the nation’s new security laws — which are expected to bind the U.S. and Japanese militaries even closer together — came into effect. It was also just a few days after the party released its basic plan for constitutional revisions.

Osaka Ishin leaders are close to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Suga, who see Matsui and his party as potential allies on a number of issues, including amending the Constitution.

The Osaka governor’s comments are believed to reflect the sentiments of other right-leaning politicians as well.

March 30, 2016 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment