Wavering support for non-nuclear principles: Japan Restoration Party raises questions

LDP calls for fundamental policy debate: Direction of national policy

Hiroshima expresses concern

by Kohei Okata and Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writers

In the run-up to the House of Representatives election, support is wavering for the three non-nuclear principles, which are national policy. Leaders of the Japan Restoration Party, part of the so-called “third force” in Japanese politics, have repeatedly made statements raising doubts about the non-nuclear principles. Meanwhile the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has pledged to “conduct a fundamental debate on nuclear deterrence policy.” There is growing concern in Hiroshima about what will happen to the non-nuclear principles in the aftermath of the election.

After a campaign stop in Hiroshima’s Naka Ward on November 10, Toru Hashimoto, deputy head of the Japan Restoration Party, said to the press, “Abolition of nuclear weapons is the ideal, but in reality it’s not possible.” He also demonstrated a willingness to accept the bringing of nuclear weapons into Japan, which is prohibited by the three non-nuclear principles, saying, “If it is necessary for them to be brought in under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, we should seek the understanding of the people to do so.”

In a lecture he gave on November 20, Shintaro Ishihara, party leader, said Japan “should simulate the possession of nuclear weapons.”

Statements run counter to Hiroshima’s desire

The common thread running through these statements is an affirmation of nuclear deterrence. Hiroshima resident Yoshiko Kajimoto, 81, is an atomic bomb survivor who tells students who visit the city on school trips about her experiences. With regard to these statements she said, “The abolition of nuclear weapons is the desire of Hiroshima. These statements run counter to that.”

Hiroshima District 1 is an election district that includes the hypocenter of the atomic bombing. Members of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and the LDP, the two major political parties, as well as of the Japan Future Party and the Communist Party who are expected to be candidates to represent the district have all expressed their anger and stepped up criticism of Ishihara’s statement, saying that Japan must maintain its vision for the abolition of nuclear weapons. The Japan Restoration Party will not field a candidate in District 1.

The two major parties, which have held the reins of government so far, cannot just criticize the other parties either.

DPJ, LDP policies called into question

In the last House of Representatives election in 2009, the DPJ grabbed power from the LDP. Since then the party has stood firm in its support of the three non-nuclear principles. But the denuclearization of northeast Asia, which had been advocated in the party’s manifesto, has not been actively debated within the party, and the current manifesto makes no reference to the issue.

In October of this year, the Japanese government refused to sign a joint declaration calling for efforts by nations to make the use of nuclear weapons illegal under international law. The government asserted that the declaration was inconsistent with the nation’s security policy, which includes reliance on the nuclear umbrella of the United States.

As for the LDP, in July of last year, its National Strategy Headquarters issued a report spelling out the party’s “non-nuclear 2.5 principles,” which include approval of port calls by U.S. military ships armed with nuclear weapons. In its latest campaign pledge, the party said it would “initiate a fundamental debate on nuclear deterrence and establish a basic policy.”

There is growing interest in diplomacy and security in light of the conflict with South Korea over Takeshima Island (Dokdo Island, to Koreans) in Shimane Prefecture and with China over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. Meanwhile Shinzo Abe, president of the LDP, has shown clear signs of conservative tendencies, pledging to amend the Constitution to change the status of the Self-Defense Forces to a “national defense force” and to allow the nation to exercise the right of collective self-defense.

Exercise of the right of collective defense is also embraced by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, but the DPJ did not address that issue or amending the Constitution in its manifesto this time.

In its campaign pledge, the Japan Restoration Party advocates the creation of a law that will allow Japan to exercise the right of collective defense and the formulation of an “independent constitution.” The Japan Future Party makes no reference to the right of collective self-defense in its policy outline, but it does promote the formulation of a fundamental law on national security and participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations.

The lower house election is shaping up to be one in which the “third force” challenges the two major parties. “The DPJ is leaning to the right, and the LDP will move even further to the right in order to differentiate itself from the DPJ,” said Koji Fujimoto, 61, secretary general of the Hiroshima chapter of the Japan Congress Against A- and H-bombs (Gensuikin). Mr. Fujimoto made no secret of his sense of the risk that this drift to the right will lead to changes in the three non-nuclear principles.

Kazuo Okoshi, 72, secretary general of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations, which is chaired by Kazushi Kaneko, said, “There are fewer and fewer people left who lived through the war, so Hiroshima must speak out even more strongly against the horrors of war and nuclear weapons.”

(Originally published on December 2, 2012)