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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 January 17 - 23  > Japanese gov’t isolates itself from world by relying on nuclear deterrence
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2018 January 17 - 23 [POLITICS]

Japanese gov’t isolates itself from world by relying on nuclear deterrence

January 18, 2018

The Japanese government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party turned their backs on the cause of a world free from nuclear weapons, making clear their isolation from the international community. A government official and a LDP lawmaker pointed to the necessity of the U.S. nuclear deterrence strategy at a debate held on January 16 in the Diet building which was joined by Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Sato Masahisa spoke on behalf of the Japanese government. Calling North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs a “threat”, he said that under the Japan-U.S. alliance, maintaining the U.S. nuclear deterrence is essential and that Japan cannot sign the UN treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. Sato went on to say that the treaty was drawn up without properly taking into account real world security issues. He asserted that Japan’s signing onto the treaty would damage the legitimacy of the deterrence strategy and that this is tantamount to putting Japanese citizens’ lives and property into danger.

Sato used the nuclear deterrence theory as a reason to oppose the nuclear weapons ban treaty. The deterrence theory is an idea that a county can protect national security with a threat to use nuclear weapons. In other words, a country can be allowed to resort to using nuclear weapons in the event of security-related emergency even though it would bring about a great human tragedy similar to ones experienced in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Sato said that Japan, the only country that was attacked with atomic bombs, has worked harder than any other countries to raise public awareness of the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons. However, it is illogical for Japan to emphasize the cruelty of nuclear weapons while upholding the nuclear deterrence theory. The Japanese government should drastically review its irrational stance.

Fihn in the debate said that the world trend is to make nuclear weapons illegal. Stating that a nuclear weapon can kill millions of innocent people in a flash, she stressed that such a weapon must not be a key component of national security. She stated that the nuclear deterrence theory is a myth.

In response to this remark by Fihn, Sato noted that the UN nuclear weapons ban treaty is not signed by many countries and that most of countries in North America and Europe do not support the treaty. Sato said that at this point of time, Japan cannot do away with its reliance on nuclear deterrence. Takemi Keizo, who is the chairman of the LDP Policy Board in the House of Councilors, also spoke at the meeting. He said that Japan needs to depend on the Japan-U.S. alliance and the U.S. nuclear umbrella in order to cope with the nuclear threat.

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo refused to hold a meeting with Fihn, citing a tight schedule as the reason. These remarks and behavior by a high-ranking government official and the ruling party lawmaker represent the stance of nuclear weapons states rather than the stance that Japan, the only country experiencing A-bomb attacks, should adopt.

Fihn at a news conference in the Japan National Press Club on the same day pointed out that there seems to be a huge gap between government policies and values held by people in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. She said that she wants to request Prime Minister Abe to respect Hibakusha and sign the UN treaty banning nuclear weapons. Fihn stressed that Japan can exercise a unique leadership role as the only A-bombed country in the world. The Japanese government should respond to Fihn’s call and depart from reliance on the nuclear deterrence theory.
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