Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kihara indicates policy outlining no first use of nuclear weapons would present security difficulties for Japan

by Junya Kuchimoto and Koji Higuchi, Staff Writers

On December 9, the British newspaper the Financial Times reported in its digital edition that U.S. government officials had conveyed to their allies that U.S. President Joe Biden would not employ a policy of “no first use of nuclear weapons” in the new U.S. nuclear strategy known as the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which the U.S. government is now at work formulating.

At a news conference held on December 10, Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara expressed his views about the news report. “It would be difficult to achieve perfect security for Japan depending on the notion of no first use of nuclear weapons,” he explained.

In introductory remarks, Mr. Kihara said, “The U.S. government has made no official announcement at this point in time. The Japanese government will therefore refrain from commenting on the news report.” He then argued that, generally speaking, the policy of no first use of nuclear weapons was “not meaningful unless it is implemented by all nuclear weapons states simultaneously in a verifiable manner.”

Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, representing Yamaguchi Prefecture’s District No. 3, reiterated Mr. Kihara’s statement at another news conference held on the same day, December 10. Questioned whether he would discuss the issue with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at their first meeting scheduled for December 11, timed to coincide with the meeting of foreign ministers of the Group of Seven industrialized nations (G7) in the United Kingdom, Mr. Hayashi only remarked that, “I’ll attend the meeting on the premise there hasn’t been any sort of official announcement from the U.S. government.”

The world is watching whether the Biden administration, expected to follow the former Obama administration’s principle of “a world without nuclear weapons,” will incorporate the policy of no first use of nuclear weapons into its new NPR, the guidelines for U.S. nuclear strategy currently under development.

(Originally published on December 11, 2021)