Hiroshima : 70 Years After the A-bombing

Hiroshima Asks: Toward the 70th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing: A-bombed nation at a crossroads

by Jumpei Fujimura, Michiko Tanaka, Osamu Kido and Yumi Kanazaki, Staff Writers

While eyeing a dramatic shift in Japan’s postwar security policy, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is moving quickly to strengthen its alliance with the United States, the nuclear superpower. As it clings more tightly to the nuclear umbrella, where is Japan, the only nation to have experienced atomic attack, headed? At the recent Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), where some 190 member states discussed nuclear disarmament, Japan could not make its presence felt.

Revised Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines bolster bilateral alliance

“As minister of foreign affairs, from Hiroshima, I keep close to my heart the hopes of the atomic bomb survivors, and I am determined to make progress toward a world free of nuclear weapons at this Review Conference.” On April 27, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida declared his determination at the General Debate of the NPT Review Conference, which opened in New York on that day.

This year’s review conference coincides with the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Japan. For the first time in 10 years, a Japanese foreign minister took part. Moreover, Mr. Kishida was elected from the A-bombed city of Hiroshima. Watching from the gallery, A-bomb survivors and members of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had hoped that the Japanese government would show strong leadership.

However, Japan’s only call at the conference was to advance “practical and concrete measures,” such as securing the transparency of nuclear arsenals, a demand that the Japanese government has made repeatedly before. Japan’s proposal did not present any substantive steps toward eliminating nuclear weapons. The A-bomb survivors and nations dedicated to nuclear disarmament were visibly frustrated and disappointed.

Why can’t Japan stand at the forefront?

Why is Japan, the only country in human history to suffer atomic bombings, unable to stand at the forefront in the quest to abolish nuclear weapons? One reason is the nuclear umbrella provided by the United States, in line with the Japan-U.S. alliance. The idea that the nuclear umbrella is instrumental to Japan’s defense has become deeply rooted with the Japanese government.

An event which symbolizes this point took place in New York City three hours before Mr. Kishida delivered his address at the NPT Review Conference in the same city. The site of the event was the Waldorf Astoria, a high-end hotel that has been the scene of much maneuvering in international politics.

On April 28, the Japanese and U.S. governments held a meeting of the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee (also known as the two-plus-two security talks), involving foreign and defense ministers from both countries. On that day, the Guidelines for Japan-Defense Cooperation were revised for the first time in 18 years.

At a joint news conference at the end of the meeting, Mr. Kishida stressed that, under the new guidelines, Japan would make further efforts to strengthen nuclear deterrence and the ability to take appropriate action based on the Japan-U.S. alliance. Commemorative photos were taken in a cordial atmosphere featured Mr. Kishida and the others in attendance, which included Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

The updated guidelines, which define the roles of the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military, incorporate provisions which seek seamless cooperation on defense issues, from peacetime to contingencies involving conflict. The guidelines also stipulate that the United States will defend Japan through “the full range of capabilities, including U.S. nuclear forces.” Under these guidelines, the U.S. nuclear umbrella holds central significance.

Regarding the nuclear umbrella, the original 1978 guidelines and the 1997 update both specify that the United States will maintain its nuclear deterrent capability to defend Japan. Yasuhiro Kobe, the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty Division Director of the Foreign Ministry of Japan, said that, in the negotiations on the revision of the guidelines, “neither special attention nor emphasis was put on nuclear deterrence.” He also said that there was no dramatic change in the position of nuclear deterrence within the new guidelines.

Meanwhile, someone who has long kept a close eye on the Japan-U.S. alliance takes a slightly different view. Yukio Sato, 75, the former permanent representative of Japan to the United Nations, said with feeling that “Japan has finally arrived at this stage.” Mr. Sato’s postings for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs included serving as chief of the security section of the Foreign Ministry’s American Bureau and director-general of the North American Affairs Bureau. He contended that only by fulfilling its own military role can Japan secure U.S. deterrence. With the threat from nuclear weapon states like China and North Korea in mind, Mr. Sato stressed the significance of the revised guidelines.

Subject of atomic bombing left touched

On April 28, the day after the revision of the Japan-U.S. guidelines, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barak Obama held a summit at the White House. During the press conference after the meeting, the two leaders issued a joint statement concerning the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). They declared that “Japan and the United States reaffirm their commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons and to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.” However, according to those who attended the meeting, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation were reportedly not discussed.

On April 29, Mr. Abe addressed a joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the first prime minister of Japan to appear before both bodies of the U.S. Congress. In his 45-minute address, reflecting back on the Japan-U.S. relationship, Mr. Abe touched on some historical facts involving World War II. He mentioned Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and the Bataan Death March where American soldiers who surrendered in the Philippines were held under harsh conditions. At the same time, he made no mention of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki until the end of his address.

He concluded his speech by saying, “An alliance of hope... Together, we can make a difference,” and his listeners responded with eager applause. However, it was apparent that the “hope” Mr. Abe referred to no longer includes the realization of a world without nuclear weapons, a goal ostensibly shared by both nations.

Abe in headlong rush for dramatic shift in nation’s security policy

On May 14, two weeks after the Japan-U.S. summit at the White House, a package of security bills was approved by the Cabinet. At a press conference on that day, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “We must hand down a peaceful nation to future generations. Toward that end, we should move forward with confidence.” He stressed that a peaceful nation can be bequeathed to coming generations by bolstering the Japan-U.S. alliance.

Mr. Abe views these security bills as the cornerstone of the nation’s efforts to strengthen Japan-U.S. relations. Once the bills are enacted, Japan would become more deeply drawn into cooperation on defense issues with the United States, and this includes maintaining the nuclear deterrent capability. The bills would serve as the legal basis for exercising the nation’s right to collective self-defense, which has been prohibited by successive administrations in the past, and would sharply transform Japan’s postwar security policy. This shift can be seen as Mr. Abe’s earnest desire.

The first Abe administration, which sought to break away from the postwar regime, failed after suffering a humiliating defeat in the 2007 Upper House elections. His second administration, however, launched in 2012, has moved quickly to approve the use of the right to collective self-defense, pushed forward by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which holds an overwhelming majority in the Diet.

Mr. Abe contends that his aim is based on rising international tensions in this part of the world, and that Japan is unable to ensure its security alone. He clearly has an eye trained on China’s growing assertiveness at sea.

If the security bills are approved, this would allow Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to take part in military action abroad, even if Japan is not directly attacked. “When revisions had been made to the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, there were always some who said Japan would again become embroiled in war. But if you look, such claims are completely mistaken, which has been proven by the history of the postwar period.” At a press conference, Mr. Abe strongly rebuffed criticism of the security bills.

Revisions to the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty in 1960, which Mr. Abe referred to, were enacted by the late Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, Abe’s grandfather and a permanent presence in his mind.

The original Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, signed in 1951, imposed on Japan the obligation to provide the United States with military bases, though the United States was not obliged to defend Japan. Therefore, when the treaty was revised. Mr. Kishi was able to incorporate the U.S. duty to aid Japan’s defense. Mr. Abe is now seeking to deepen the Japan-U.S. alliance further after its restructuring by his grandfather during the Cold War era between the United States and the Soviet Union. Mr. Abe’s policy mantra is a “proactive contribution to peace based on the principles of international cooperation.”

“We have no other agenda,” a high-ranking government official said when full deliberations on the security bills began in the Diet. Based on the assumption that the Diet session would be extended, a blueprint to enact the bills by August was drawn up. This is the scenario that Mr. Abe promised to fulfill in his address to the U.S. Congress.

Japan seems resolved to contribute to the peace and stability of the world far more than in the past. Mr. Abe repeatedly proclaims the phrase “proactive contribution to peace,” calling this Japan’s declaration to lead and determine its future. However, the “peace” which Mr. Abe envisages is different from the peace which the A-bombed city of Hiroshima has persistently appealed for.


Interview with Takao Takahara, director of the International Peace Research Institute: Improved deterrence is an illusion

While huddling for protection beneath the U.S. nuclear umbrella, Japan, as the only country to have experienced the horrors of nuclear attack, continues to appeal for a world free of nuclear weapons. How should this nation deal with its contradictory policy? The Chugoku Shimbun spoke with Takao Takahara, the director of the International Peace Research Institute at Meiji Gakuin University and an expert on Japan’s international relationships in the postwar period.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stressed the idea of strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance during his visit to the United States. How do you view his initiatives? Strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance means that the Abe administration has taken up the global strategy pursued by the U.S. in which Japan is incorporated into its missile defense program. If the security bills, now being deliberated in the Diet, are enacted, there is a possibility that it would become difficult for Japan to take the lead in operating the Self-Defense Forces under the U.S. pretext of “an integrated operation.”

The government contends that deterrence will be improved with a stronger Japan-U.S. alliance.
This is illusory thinking. The Japanese government should realize that the U.S. nuclear umbrella is a means of controlling allied countries, not protecting them. One reason the nuclear umbrella was extended to cover Japan was to prevent it from pursuing its own nuclear weapons in light of China’s nuclear tests.

Japan is paying a price for the benefits of holding onto the U.S. nuclear umbrella. It should reflect more seriously on whether the various costs involving the Japan-U.S. alliance are commensurate with the actual conditions.

The NPT Review Conference, which opened at around the same time as Mr. Abe’s visit to the United States, didn’t produce an agreement on the final document. How should Japan respond?
Japan and the United States declared that they would strengthen their alliance and issued a joint statement on the NPT. For this reason, Japan should have urged the United States to agree on the final document. If Japan had done so, it could have made its presence felt at the conference.

Although the final document wasn’t adopted, a certain level of agreement was reached on nuclear disarmament among the member countries. Some have criticized the removal of certain language, like wording which called for a nuclear weapons convention, as “lukewarm.” However, in multinational negotiations, it’s important to reach agreement step by step. It’s also important to advance the “practical and concrete measures” that Japan and some other nations have demanded. These countries should urge the nuclear powers, including the United States, to take action.

Can Japan, while protected by the nuclear umbrella, take the lead in eliminating nuclear weapons?
Japan should not get caught in a trap of its own making. Even though it lies under the nuclear umbrella, Japan can insist that nuclear weapons never be used. Norway, for example, is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), also protected by the nuclear umbrella. However, it remains committed to nuclear disarmament.

Meanwhile, Japan has also sought to have all nations ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). In addition, it has submitted resolutions to the United Nations General Assembly for the past 21 years, consecutively, which call for the total elimination of nuclear arms. The Foreign Ministry should be proud of these efforts and the Japanese people should also positively evaluate and support the government’s approach.


Takao Takahara
Born in Kobe, Hyogo in 1954, Mr. Takahara graduated from the Faculty of Law at the University of Tokyo. After serving as a research assistant at the University of Tokyo and Rikkyo University, he became a professor at Meiji Gakuin University. In 2014, he assumed his current position. He is also a member of the Peace Studies Association of Japan. He specializes in international politics and peace studies.



Security bills
The security bills in question consist of two bills: peace and security legislation aimed at revising 10 existing security-related laws, including the Self-Defense Forces Act, the Armed Attack Situation Response Law, the Law on Situations in Areas Surrounding Japan, and the Law Concerning Cooperation for United Nations Peace-keeping Operations (PKO); and a new bill for supporting global peace efforts that would create a permanent law allowing the government to dispatch Self-Defense Forces overseas to aid friendly nations in the event of international conflicts. The bills seek to expand the scope of Japan's Self-Defense Forces abroad and enable Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, which successive administrations have prohibited in line with the provisions of Article 9 of the Constitution.

Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation
The 1978 Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation are intergovernmental documents which define cooperation and the division of roles between the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military, and were primarily set down to prepare for joint operations in the event of an armed attack on Japan, with the most likely scenario being an invasion by the former Soviet Union. The original guidelines were revised in 1997 to prepare for contingencies on the Korean Peninsula. Later, Japan proposed updating the revised guidelines in view of changes in the security environment such as China’s military expansion and North Korea’s nuclear and missile development. In a meeting of the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee involving foreign and defense ministers from both countries (two-plus-two meeting) in October 2013, Japan and the United States agreed to revise the guidelines again. The new guidelines stipulate the establishment of a permanent panel for prior consultation to ensure the functions of roles and missions of the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. military.


Desire for a nuclear weapons convention is a global trend

The festive mood has changed. In conjunction with the opening of the NPT Review Conference, the opening ceremony for an A-bomb exhibition was held on April 27 in the lobby of United Nations headquarters in New York. Following a Japanese drum performance, A-bomb survivors took to the stage, one after another, to speak, voicing criticism of the Japanese government.

Japanese government must regain trust

In a sharp tone, Setsuko Thurlow, 83, said, “I feel frustrated and filled with a sense of crisis over the inconsistency of Japan’s nuclear policy.” Now a resident of Toronto, Canada, Ms. Thurlow experienced the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. In front of a stern-looking Toshio Sano, the Japanese Ambassador for Disarmament Affairs, who sat in the chair for distinguished visitors, she continued by saying, “The government must regain the trust of the A-bomb survivors, the people of Japan, and the countries that are seeking a world without nuclear weapons.” She believes that nations like Japan, which cling to the U.S. nuclear umbrella, are hampering efforts to advance nuclear abolition.

A similar scene was observed at the official NGO session of the NPT Review Conference on May 1 where Terumi Tanaka, 83, the secretary general of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo) delivered a speech before government representatives from the NPT member states. “The nuclear powers and their allies should immediately change their security policy which relies on nuclear deterrence,” he insisted. The ally that he referred to in his speech is Japan itself.

The focus of the Review Conference was on whether the member states could unanimously adopt the final document which included future initiatives for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Eventually, tensions between the nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states became exacerbated over a different issue, which resulted in the failure of the conference.

After repeated changes and alterations during the four-week-long session, the final document, a product of compromise, was not adopted. Still, the document has by no means become a piece of scrap paper.

At this year’s Review Conference, the so-called “Humanitarian Group,” comprised of such countries as Austria and Ireland, negotiated tenaciously with the nuclear weapon states. As a result, the final document was able to keep language that recommends the reviewing of “effective measures” for nuclear disarmament, including legal provisions. Although the wording is circumlocutory, the document indicates that nuclear weapons must be legally banned by creating a new treaty because of their humanitarian impact.

Japan’s stance sides with the nuclear powers

The final document includes a passage which overlaps Mr. Tanaka’s appeal. This is a line which calls upon “all States concerned” to continue to review their military and security concepts, doctrines, and policies over the course of the next five years with a view to further reducing the role and significance of nuclear arms.

“All states concerned” refers not only to the nuclear weapon states.

The original document went further by recommending that all states that have not removed nuclear arms from their security doctrine abandon any concepts or policies which are based on the assumption of a first use of nuclear weapons. After the closed-door negotiations ended, the wording was changed and made vague. However, it is apparent that non-nuclear weapon states which rely on nuclear deterrence have been increasingly urged to review their security policy.

Nevertheless, Japan has persistently maintained its long-standing policy that a phased approach to nuclear disarmament is best, which has fostered the impression that Japan sides with the nuclear weapon states.

At a press conference after the collapse of the Review Conference, Shinsuke Sugiyama, the deputy minister for foreign affairs, pledged that, “Japan will continue to take the lead in eliminating nuclear weapons to ensure that the NPT regime will not be adversely affected.” He also mentioned that Japan will strive to share the recognition of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons at a series of international conferences to be held in Hiroshima this summer, including the U.N. Conference on Disarmament Issues and a meeting of the “Group of Eminent Persons Conference” of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

“The international trend has already advanced to a stage beyond the ‘recognition of the inhumane nature’ of nuclear weapons,” said Keiko Nakamura, an associate professor at the Nagasaki University Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition in Nagasaki. “Some countries are considering taking action in a strategic way to move toward a ban on nuclear weapons before Japan changes its security policy. Under the current circumstances, Japan is unable to show its presence in nuclear disarmament affairs.”

For a serious approach to the abolition of nuclear weapons, a nuclear weapons convention is fundamental, as shown by the precedents of landmines and cluster bombs. It is now time for the Japanese government to heed the wishes of the A-bomb survivors and become part of the movement seeking to outlaw nuclear weapons, including the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Portions of the final document (not adopted) from this year’s NPT Review Conference

◆The Conference emphasizes that deep concerns pertaining to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons are a key factor that should continue to underpin efforts in the field of nuclear disarmament. The Conference affirms that it is in the interest of humanity and the security of all peoples that nuclear weapons never be used again.

◆In light of the 70th year since the end of the tragic devastations of World War II, the Conference encourages all States to intensify efforts in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation education to raise awareness of the public, in particular of younger and future generations, through interactions with and directly sharing the experiences of the people and the communities affected by nuclear weapons to know the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons.

◆The Conference recommends that the United Nations General Assembly establish at its seventieth session a working group (for one year starting from September, 2015) to identify and elaborate effective measures for nuclear disarmament including legal provisions (concerning nuclear weapons).

◆The Conference calls upon all States concerned to continue to review their military and security concepts, doctrines and policies over the course of the next review cycle with a view to reducing further the role and significance of nuclear weapons therein.

◆The Conference notes the various joint statements delivered at three international conference and the “Pledge” delivered by Austria on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.

Movement involving the Nuclear Non-proliferation (NPT) Treaty

The NPT is a multinational treaty with the pillars of nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. As the treaty permits only five countries to possess nuclear weapons--the countries which held nuclear weapons before the treaty was signed, including the United States and Russia--it has been criticized as an unequal treaty. At the same time, the treaty obligates these nuclear powers to pursue nuclear disarmament. India, Pakistan, and Israel have not joined the treaty, while North Korea announced, for the second time, its withdrawal from the treaty in 2003.

The Review Conference for the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) is held every five years to assess the implementation of the treaty. With approximately 16,000 nuclear weapons still existing on the earth, even 45 years after the treaty came into effect in 1970, non-nuclear nations have been increasing their opposition to the nuclear weapon states each time the Review Conference is held. However, even among the non-nuclear nations, some member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which deploys U.S. nuclear bombs across its region, and a few other nations like Japan, rely on the U.S. nuclear umbrella for their security.

In light of the current situation, where little progress is being made in nuclear disarmament, some non-nuclear nations have intensified their demands for a treaty to legally ban nuclear weapons, in addition to the NPT. A nuclear weapons convention was the focal point of the 2015 Review Conference, with Japan persisting in a stance which argues that such a treaty is premature.


History involving the Japan-U.S. alliance and U.S. nuclear umbrella

August 1945
The U.S. drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

September 1951
The San Francisco Peace Treaty and the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty is signed.

April 1960
Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi responds to questions in a Lower House special committee meeting, saying that Japan will not seek its own nuclear weapons or allow the entry of nuclear weapons into the country.

June 1960
The revised Japan-U.S. Security Treaty comes into effect.

October 1964
China carries out its first nuclear test.

January 1965
Prime Minister Eisaku Sato declares at a Japan-U.S. summit that Japan does not possess nuclear weapons, and asks for the United States to confirm that it will defend Japan, which U.S. President Lyndon Johnson ensures.

January 1968
Prime Minister Eisaku Sato declares the three non-nuclear principles, nuclear disarmament, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy at a Lower House plenary session. He also puts forth the “Four-Pillars Nuclear Policy” in which Japan will rely on U.S. nuclear deterrence for protection from nuclear attack under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.

March 1970
The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) comes into effect.

August 1975
Prime Minister Takeo Miki meets U.S. President Gerald Ford and issues a joint press statement about the document that first mentions nuclear deterrence, which states that “the United States will defend Japan in the event of armed attack against Japan, whether by nuclear or conventional forces.”

June 1976
Japan becomes a member of the NPT.

October 1976
The “National Defense Program Outline,” which stipulates that “Against nuclear threat, Japan will rely on the nuclear deterrent capability of the United States,” is first approved by the Cabinet.

November 1978
The Guidelines for the Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation, which stipulate that “The United States will maintain a nuclear deterrent capability,” are announced.

December 1989
U.S.-U.S.S.R. summit declares an end to the Cold War.

March 1993
North Korea announces its withdrawal from the NPT, but reverses course in June.

May 1995
The indefinite extension of the NPT is determined.

September 1997
The Japan-U.S. defense guidelines are revised and stipulate, as before, that “The U.S. will maintain its nuclear deterrent capability.”

October 2002
The United States announces that North Korea has acknowledged its nuclear weapons program.

January 2003
North Korea declares its withdrawal from the NPT.

February 2005
North Korea declares its production and possession of nuclear weapons.

September 2006
The first Abe administration begins.

October 2006
North Korea claims success in carrying out a nuclear test.

May 2007
In a joint announcement of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee (2 + 2), it is reaffirmed that “The full range of U.S. military capabilities form the core of extended deterrence and support U.S. commitments to the defense of Japan.”

April 2009
U.S. President Barack Obama proposes creating “a world without nuclear weapons” in a speech in Prague.

May 2009
North Korea carries out its second nuclear test.

February 2010
“Japan-U.S. extended deterrence dialogue” to discuss issues which include the implementation of nuclear deterrence is made ongoing.

April 2010
The Obama administration announces the “Nuclear Posture Review (NPR),” which outlines the nation’s guidelines for nuclear strategy. It states that “As long as nuclear weapons exist, the United States will sustain safe, secure, and effective nuclear forces to reassure allies.”

December 2010
New “National Defense Program Guidelines,” which state that “As long as nuclear weapons exist, the extended deterrence provided by the United States, with the nuclear deterrent as a vital element, will be indispensable,” are approved in a Cabinet meeting.

December 2012
The second Abe administration begins.

February 2013
North Korea carries out its third nuclear test.

October 2013
The Japan-U.S. two-plus-two security talks agree to revise the Japan-U.S. defense guidelines.

July 2014
The Cabinet approves exercising the right to collective self-defense.

April 2015
The Japan-U.S. defense guidelines are updated and agreement is made on cooperation between the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. military on a global scale from peacetime to contingencies.

May 2015
The Japanese government submits two security bills to the Diet.

(Originally published on June 6, 2015.)