Ex-gov’t official says Japan-U.S. secret nuke pact still valid

A purported secret pact between the United States and Japan that allowed U.S. military vessels carrying nuclear weapons to enter Japanese territory is still valid as long as Japan is protected under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, a former high-ranking government official told Kyodo News on Tuesday.

''It is natural that there is (still) an arrangement (to allow U.S. military vessels armed with nuclear weapons to pass or stop over in Japanese territory) since Japan is under the nuclear umbrella,'' the official, who was once involved in crafting foreign policy at the prime minister's office, said on condition of anonymity.

The secret pact ''has not been killed,'' he said, indicating that a document recording diplomatic exchanges, which includes the secret pact, is still effective.

His comments confirmed that past administrations, weighing the fact that Japan is under the nuclear umbrella, made policy decisions to give tacit approval of the passage and stopover of nuclear-armed U.S. military vessels and airplanes.

The Japanese government has consistently denied the existence of the covert pact and said that U.S. forces have not taken nuclear arms into Japanese territory and that no prior consultations on taking nuclear arms into Japanese territory have been held, as stipulated in the bilateral security treaty.

Japan has three non-nuclear principles of not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons on Japanese territory.

The revelation came at a time the Democratic Party of Japan is preparing for the launch of a new government following its landslide victory in Sunday's general election.

The party has pledged to make the pact's existence clear.

Citing the fact that a U.S. ship carrying nuclear weapons has not made a port call to Japan since the end of the Cold War, the former official said the minutes of the diplomatic exchanges ''are in actuality a dead document.''

But the official added that even if a DPJ-led government discloses the existence of the pact to the public, the pact itself will not lapse.

He also said another secret agreement that allows the U.S. military to use its bases in Japan without prior bilateral consultations in case of a contingency on the Korean Peninsula is still valid, together with the clandestine nuclear pact.

To date, Ryohei Murata, a former vice foreign minister, has said he heard from his predecessor about the secret nuclear accord, and three other former top foreign ministry officials have admitted that the documents relating to the agreement exist.

In revising the Japan-U.S. security treaty in 1960, the two allies purportedly exchanged the secret agreement.

(Distributed by Kyodo News on September 1, 2009)