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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 December 19 - 2019 January 8  > Nakasone gov't in 80s feared loss of 'nuclear umbrella'
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2018 December 19 - 2019 January 8 [POLITICS]

Nakasone gov't in 80s feared loss of 'nuclear umbrella'

December 20, 2018
In the 1980s, the United States was negotiating with the former Soviet Union over the reduction of intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF). The Japanese government led by Nakasone Yasuhiro at that time was afraid of losing the U.S. "nuclear umbrella" which could possibly be used as a bargaining chip during the U.S.-Russia negotiations.

The recently declassified diplomatic documents of the 1950s-1980s revealed the Japanese government's reaction to the possible loss of the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

U.S. President Ronald Reagan sent Nakasone a letter dated February 6, 1986 in which he said that the Soviet Union is refusing to immediately embark on the worldwide abolition of INF and that he is leaning toward suggesting to the Soviet side that INF in Europe be eliminated first and then Soviet SS-20 intermediate-range ballistic missiles which were aimed at Asia be cut by 50%.

Nakasone sent a reply dated February 10, 1986 in which he said that Japan is concerned about the possibility that the sense of security associated with the reliability of U.S. nuclear deterrence would be undermined.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a directive dated February 10, 1986, to the Japanese ambassador to Washington in which the Ministry showed its concern that a condition for worldwide abolition of INF could be a removal of the nuclear weapons being brought into the surrounding areas of Japan, that U.S. nuclear capabilities, such as sea-launched cruise missiles or nuclear-equipped Tomahawk missiles on U.S. warships, may be used as bargaining chips in the Washington-Moscow talks, and that Japan may lose the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

What is more, the Foreign Ministry worried that public debates over the U.S. policy of "neither confirm nor deny" in regard to the presence of nuclear weapons on ships or aircraft would erupt again, and that the nuclear weapons which were already brought into Japan under Japan-U.S. secret agreements would be revealed to the general public. The Ministry ordered the Japanese ambassador to Washington to push the U.S. administration to propose "zero" SS-20s in Asia to the Soviet Union.

U.S. President Reagan on February 22 once again sent Nakasone a letter in which Reagan said the U.S. is deeply concerned about Japan's specific concerns and intends to put forth a proposal to the Soviet Union for "zero" SS-20s both in Europe and in Asia by the end of 1989.

Later, the U.S. and the Soviet Union in December 1987 in Washington, D.C. signed the treaty eliminating INF with no area limitations.
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