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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Japanese Political Parties' Views on the "Nuclear Umbrella"

The NGO Network of ICNND (International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament) conducted a survey with the major Japanese political parties about their position on the issue of U.S. "nuclear umbrella" over Japan. See the result in Japanese and in English at the below link. The result was released on August 14, two weeks before the general election in which DPJ, the Democratic Party of Japan, won a landslide victory.

What we should watch for is the view of the new coalition government,especially DPJ, the overwhelming majority of it, and SDP, a minor but a party that's strongly committed to nuclear abolition, and is clear about immediate departure from the nuclear umbrella.

DPJ is, like on some other foreign policy/security issues, is ambiguous about this issue.

"NU" is a short for "nuclear umbrella."

- wants to claim its autonomy in utilizing the NU. This is in line with their manifesto that they want to form a more equal relationship with the U.S. Different from LDP that never minds being a U.S.'s pet puppy.

- wants to carefully examine the role of NU with the US, but within the vision of nuclear non-proliferation/disarmament/abolition. Again, different from LDP that accepts status quo.

- avoided answering directly on the question of "no first use," but wants to work with Obama for no-use of nukes including use as threat.

- thinks regional non-nuclear and peace framework is prerequisite for departing from NU, for example, establishment of Northeast Asia Nuclear-free Zone. This is consistent with their manifesto.

Related to the last point, DPJ wants to build closer ties with China and the rest of Asia, and wants to make sure that it is not a defiant gesture against the U.S. There is a perception that under the DPJ-led government, China and Japan, which in total possess near 50% of U.S.bonds, working together will signify a major global power-shift, posing a threat to the U.S. Efforts to prevent such perception are apparent in recent speeches by Hatoyama and Chinese officials. Through the long negotiation between DPJ and SDP, the coalition government's policy agreement announced yesterday included the revision of Status of Forces Agreement and termination of the SDF's refuelling mission in the Indian Ocean. U.S. immediately expressed a strong concern over these issues. We should look forward to the first Obama-Hatoyama talk will be held at the end of this month concurrent with the U.N. General Assembly.

The Network concludes from this survey that

- At the time when the U.S.'s nuclear policy is going through changes based on Obama's Prague Speech in April 2009, Japanese people and leaders will be confronted this fall with decisions around Japan's long-standing "nuclear umbrella" policy and its dependence on the U.S. Japan's attitude will be one of the key factors that will influence and determine whether the U.S.'s NPR (Nuclear Posture Review) will reflect Obama's vision of "a world free of nuclear weapons." The result of the survey suggests that Obama's new vision made significant impacts on Japanese policyholders. For example, LDP had always dismissed the proposal of a "no-first-use" policy calling it unrealistic, but all of the other parties are becoming increasingly aware of the urgency of this issue and necessity for building concrete strategies around this issue. The Network calls each of these parties for adoption of"no-first-use" proposal for Nuclear Weapon States, and urges the Japanese leaders and citizens to work towards the establishment of"Northeast Asia Nuclear-free Zone."

ICNND was established in 2008 as a Japan-Australia initiative for nuclear disarmament and abolition, endorsed by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. It is a joint governmental initiative co-chaired by Gareth Evans and Yoriko Kawaguchi, both former Foreign Minister of respective countries. ICNND will hold its 4th international conference in Hiroshima in October.

Satoko Norimatsu

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