Secret pact on nuclear arms no longer in effect

The Foreign Ministry is preparing to admit that while there is a secret agreement between the United States and Japan under which Tokyo would allow stopovers by U.S. military vessels carrying nuclear weapons, it is no longer in effect as such stopovers are no longer made, ministry sources said Tuesday.

The announcement will be made as early as January following an in-house investigation by the ministry into alleged four-decade-old bilateral secret pacts on nuclear arms and other issues.

It has been alleged that under the secret deal signed in 1960, Japan agreed to allow stopovers by nuclear-armed vessels made without prior consultation. Under the 1960 bilateral security treaty, Washington is required to consult with Tokyo before bringing nuclear weapons into Japan.

The secret pact would contradict Japan's three principles of not possessing, producing or permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons on its territory, which were first declared in 1967 by then Prime Minister Eisaku Sato.

The administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has also declared that it will adhere to the principles.

The government believes that it will be able to resolve the current contradiction by declaring that the secret pact is no longer in effect.

After the end of the Cold War, then U.S. President George H.W. Bush announced in 1991 that the United States would withdraw tactical nuclear weapons from its vessels. It is believed that there is no possibility that vessels carrying nuclear weapons will visit Japan except in emergency situations.

While the existence of the pact has been virtually confirmed by declassified U.S. documents and testimonies of people involved in the issue, past Japanese governments have consistently denied it, saying, ''Nuclear arms have not been brought into Japan as the United States has not requested prior consultations.''

Following the launch of the Democratic Party of Japan-led government in September, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada ordered the ministry to reexamine the issue by setting up the investigation team.

On the ongoing investigation, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned during his talks with Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa in Tokyo in October that the probe should not be allowed to damage bilateral relations or undermine U.S. nuclear deterrence.

(Distributed by Kyodo News on Dec. 9, 2009)