Nuclear weapons can be eliminated: Interview with Masaru Sato, intelligence analyst

by Keisuke Yoshihara, Staff Writer

Masaru Sato, 49, former Principal Senior Coordinator for Intelligence Analysis at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, argues that World War III has already begun. Mr. Sato sat down with the Chugoku Shimbun in Tokyo on April 9 to talk about the present state of U.S.-Russian relations and other matters.

When you say “World War III,” you use this expression in the sense of “the conflict between states and non-state actors,” is that right?
The former director of the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, analyzed the data and concluded that this war began after the 9.11 terrorist attacks in 2001. It is “asymmetric warfare.” Terrorist attacks against nations constitute a political war.

Under these conditions, the most likely place nuclear weapons would be used is Kashmir, the disputed region between India and Pakistan. In Pakistan, the Musharraf regime collapsed last year and the new administration has not exercised the same control over Islamic fundamentalist groups. Nuclear weapons technology, developed by A.Q. Khan, is likely to have been transferred to these groups.

What are your impressions of the meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on April 1?
On its front page on April 2, the Russian newspaper Izvestia used a picture where it looks like President Obama and President Medvedev are frowning at each other. This should be interpreted as the Kremlin’s dissatisfaction with the subjects discussed at the meeting.

We should take note, too, of the meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held in March. Clinton prepared a button labeled “reset,” to indicate the resetting of relations between the two countries, and both Clinton and Lavrov pressed this button together. However, the spelling of “reset” in Russia was incorrect. Instead of “reset,” the button was labeled “overcharge.” This reveals the poor quality of the U.S. State Department. If both countries were cooperating at a practical level, the U.S. would have shown the button to Russia in advance. This indicates that U.S.-Russian relations have become rather frayed.

How do you see the prospects for pending issues between the two countries, including U.S. plans to place a missile defense system in Eastern Europe?
In the war between Russia and Georgia, Russia fought back when Georgia invaded Russian territory. The U.S., however, defended Georgia by spreading misinformation blaming Russia for invading Georgia. The mutual distrust resulting from this incident will take a decade or two to dispel.

However, Russia feels even more threatened by U.S. intervention in Ukraine, which contains a number of military-industrial complexes and space industry facilities. Russia is worried that the U.S. might help create a pro-American regime there and gain access to information at these sites.

Do you think Russia can scale back its nuclear arsenal?
Six years ago, a Russian military man told me, “The U.S. and Russia must reduce the number of nuclear weapons to around 1000 each.” So it seems possible to pursue this threshold. Although Russian military and diplomatic elites believe a nuclear arsenal is essential, peace education is widely promoted in the country and Russian citizens are in favor of eliminating these weapons. Nearly all Russians are aware of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

What do you expect from Japanese diplomacy?
Both Hiroshima and Japan, as an A-bombed city and nation, should continue to call for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Lawmakers who insist that Japan should possess nuclear weapons are acting irresponsibly. Possessing nuclear weapons and producing electricity from nuclear power plants should be considered in tandem. If Japan had nuclear weapons, it would have to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its nuclear power plants would cease to operate because Japan would not be allowed to buy uranium to fuel them.

Real patriotism is not about making bellicose statements; it involves making efforts to create the conditions where no nuclear weapons are ever used again.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs appears dependent on the U.S. “nuclear umbrella.”
This is symptomatic of the people involved. It’s dangerous for Japan when the people in power in the ministry emphasize strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance and relying on nuclear weapons for protection. No concrete diplomatic policies have been seen from the current ministry. This is indicative of our decline as a nation.

Masaru Sato
Masaru Sato played an active role in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an intelligence expert on Russian affairs. He was arrested in 2002 by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on a charge of “breach of trust.” He was given a suspended sentence after being convicted at his first and second trials. His case is currently on appeal. Mr. Sato has written a number of books, including Jikai suru Teikoku (A Failed Empire) and Kokka no wana (A Trap Laid by the Nation).

(Originally published on April 10, 2009)

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