Nuclear weapons and the Lower House election

by Junichiro Hayashi, Staff Writer

Amid the whirlwind of change in the international situation regarding nuclear weapons, an election for members of the House of Representatives was officially declared on August 18. Voting will take place on August 30. The election presents an important opportunity for Japan to evaluate the course of its diplomatic and security policies.

U.S. President Barack Obama, leader of the nuclear superpower, has pledged to pursue efforts to achieve “a world without nuclear weapons.” If Japan remains an ally of the United States, what sort of policies should the next administration propose? How can Japan address immediate nuclear threats, such as that posed by the nuclear tests conducted by North Korea, and maintain its security? This summer marks the 64th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan. The Chugoku Shimbun interviewed six likely candidates from Hiroshima District No. 1, which encompasses the hypocenter of the bombing. These candidates are entrusted with the A-bombed city’s wish for peace.

On the morning of August 6, less than two weeks before the official announcement of the election, most of those expected to run from District No. 1 were in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Some laid wreaths at the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims while others bowed their heads as they prayed for the repose of the souls of those killed in the bombing on its anniversary.

Diplomacy and Security

Former Representative Fumio Kishida, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, believes that the alliance between Japan and the U.S. is the cornerstone of Japan’s diplomacy and security and that its credibility must be enhanced. He also said Japan must stress its status as the only nation to have suffered atomic bombings.

Meanwhile Hiroshi Sugekawa, a newcomer from the Democratic Party of Japan, said active diplomatic efforts are necessary to bring about the “world without nuclear weapons” advocated by Mr. Obama.

Satoshi Fujimoto, a newcomer from the Japanese Communist Party, said Japan’s mission is get out from under the U.S. nuclear umbrella and contribute to peace in Asia and the world through Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, the clause that renounces war.

Yoshiteru Uemura, a newcomer from the Social Democratic Party, stressed the importance of a “no first use” policy under which the use of nuclear weapons is limited to retaliation for nuclear attacks. He also cited the need for efforts to achieve nuclear abolition by 2020.

With regard to North Korea, which has repeatedly conducted nuclear tests and launched missiles, Hironori Yamamoto, a newcomer from the Happiness Realization Party, said the strengthening of its national defense must be Japan’s top priority.

Fuminori Nakamura, a newcomer with no party affiliation, said that as a non-nuclear nation Japan must establish a defense policy that does not rely on nuclear weapons.

Three Non-Nuclear Principles

Under its three non-nuclear principles, which are national policy, Japan has declared that it shall neither possess nor manufacture nuclear weapons nor permit their introduction into Japanese territory. These principles have been shaken by the revelation of the possible existence of a secret agreement with the U.S. allowing nuclear weapons to be brought into Japanese territory aboard ships.

Under these circumstances, Mr. Kishida, Mr. Sugekawa and Mr. Nakamura all stressed the importance of adhering to the three non-nuclear principles. Mr. Uemura also said that they must be upheld by all citizens and advocates enshrining them into law. Mr. Fujimoto has stated that all information regarding the secret agreement must be disclosed and it must be revoked. Mr. Yamamoto said he does not believe the issue warrants debate at present.

Nuclear Abolition

The “world without nuclear weapons” advocated by Obama is the fervent desire of Hiroshima. With regard to the approach the government must take in order to realize that goal, Mr. Kishida said Japan must play an active role in leading the debate on the issue while Mr. Sugekawa also stressed Japan must take the lead in the effort. Both candidates said Japan should work toward the prompt realization of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and said they believed next spring’s review conference for the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty would provide an opportunity to issue an appeal for the treaty’s fulfillment.

Mr. Fujimoto said the Japanese government’s reliance on the U.S. nuclear umbrella poses an obstacle to nuclear abolition and indicated that that approach should be changed. Mr. Uemura has called for the enactment of a “non-nuclear law” in which Japan would declare that it would not possess nuclear weapons. He also advocates the creation of a non-nuclear zone in Northeast Asia.

Mr. Yamamoto said he does not see any indication of a groundswell of support for nuclear abolition globally. Mr. Nakamura stated that Japan’s role is to support Mr. Obama’s effort to achieve a nuclear-free world.

Parties unveil manifestos, some address nuclear abolition

Each political party has unveiled a manifesto. That of the Liberal Democratic Party makes no reference to the abolition of nuclear weapons and simply states that the party will “protect Japan from the threat of North Korea’s missiles and nuclear weapons.” Its manifesto focuses on the strengthening of Japan’s defense capability revolving around the U.S.-Japan alliance.

Meanwhile the Democratic Party of Japan, which hopes to assume power following the election, has pledged to bring about a “close, equal alliance between Japan and the U.S.” and “to lead the effort to abolish nuclear weapons.” The party’s platform also addresses a fissile material cut-off treaty and other measures to prevent the development of new nuclear weapons and nuclear proliferation.

The manifestos of New Komeito, the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party, The People’s New Party, and Your Party all address the issue of nuclear abolition. The JCP and the SDP also call for the truth to be revealed about the secret agreement between Japan and the U.S. allowing the U.S. to bring nuclear weapons into Japanese territory and call for the upholding of the three non-nuclear principles.

With regard to North Korea, the Japan Renaissance Party says it will strengthen Japan’s diplomatic muscle and develop defense capability. The diplomatic measures of New Party Nippon do not directly address the issue of nuclear weapons. The Happiness Realization Party, which has not met the requirement to officially become a party, has stated that it will create a defense framework to address the military threats posed by North Korea and China.

Outline of the nuclear weapons-related diplomatic and security policies of the political parties as described in their manifestos

Liberal Democratic Party of Japan
Promote deployment of a ballistic missile defense system and enhance measures to address large-scale terrorist and guerrilla attacks and nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. From the standpoint of the nation’s defense policy, maintain and strengthen the technology infrastructure of the domestic defense industry and promote sweeping reform of technological development and joint research in order to enhance the level of Japan’s technology.

Democratic Party of Japan
In order to create a close, equal alliance between Japan and the U.S., establish a proactive diplomatic strategy and actively carry out Japan’s responsibilities while sharing responsibilities with the U.S. Seek the denuclearization of Northeast Asia. Work toward the prompt realization of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the prompt signing of a fissile material cut-off treaty. Play a leading role in the 2010 review conference of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

New Komeito
As the only nation to have suffered atomic bombings, take specific steps toward the elimination of nuclear weapons including strengthening Japan’s cooperation with the international community and working to strengthen the NPT framework, which will serve as the basis for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Work toward the prompt realization of the CTBT and, in an effort to establish a fissile material cut-off treaty, further encourage support from the governments of other countries and the global community and work toward the prompt initiation of negotiations.

Japanese Communist Party
Play an active role in the effort to abolish nuclear weapons. Disclose all information regarding the secret agreement with the U.S. on the bringing of nuclear weapons into Japanese territory and ensure that Japan is truly a non-nuclear nation. In order to get North Korea to abandon its development of nuclear weapons, pursue the reopening of the six-party talks and make every effort to resolve the issues between North Korea and Japan.

Social Democratic Party
Uphold the three non-nuclear principles and, as the only country to suffer atomic bombings, take the lead in the effort to abolish nuclear weapons and work toward a nuclear-free world. Develop the framework of the six-party talks and seek a nuclear-free zone in Northeast Asia and the creation of a security mechanism for the region. Promote the disclosure of information related to diplomacy and security and reveal the truth regarding the secret agreement with the U.S. to bring nuclear weapons into Japanese territory.

The People’s New Party
Pursue a new relationship between Japan and the U.S. In order to achieve peace and stability in Northeast Asia and to abolish nuclear weapons, promote active political diplomacy while cooperating with China, South Korea, the U.S., Russia, and other countries. In order to normalize relations with North Korea, political leaders must visit North Korea for a comprehensive solution to issues including the abduction of Japanese citizens, nuclear weapons development, and the launching of missiles.

Your Party
As the only nation to suffer atomic bombings, take the lead in the effort to abolish nuclear weapons and work toward nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Hold international disarmament conferences in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Japan Renaissance Party
In order to address the growing threat to Japan posed by North Korea’s nuclear tests and missile launches, strengthen Japan’s diplomatic muscle and develop defense capability.

New Party Nippon
Establish an international rescue team. (No policies directly related to nuclear weapons are included in the party’s manifesto.)

Interview with Kazumi Mizumoto, associate professor at the Hiroshima Peace Institute of Hiroshima City University

The Chugoku Shimbun asked Kazumi Mizumoto, 52, associate professor of international politics at the Hiroshima Peace Institute of Hiroshima City University, about the prospective candidates for Hiroshima District No. 1 and the diplomacy and security policies outlined in the manifestos of Japan’s political parties.

How do you view the diplomatic and security policies put forth by the various candidates?
If you eliminate the unaffiliated candidate, most of the likely candidates in Hiroshima District No. 1 reflect the views of their parties. Some of them have addressed the nuclear issue, but I wonder how clearly they will clarify its importance. How will they achieve consistency between Japan’s security policies and its non-nuclear policies? As the representative from Hiroshima, their role is to offer specifics to the voters.

How about when seen at the party level?
This Lower House election reflects the battle between the LDP and the DPJ for control of the next administration. In that sense, the economic measures and other measures of both parties that affect the lives of citizens are in the forefront, and there doesn’t seem to have been much discussion about diplomatic or security policies. For the LDP this may mean that they want voters to retain confidence in the course the party has taken thus far. Most of the other parties have offered in-depth policies in their manifestos.

Isn’t addressing the international situation an important issue?
The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is also proposing new diplomatic and security policies. As an ally of the U.S., what stance will Japan adopt at this time? This Lower House election will determine who takes the helm of the government, so a clear vision is needed. But diplomatic and security issues are complex, and in some ways they are less likely to become major issues.

So, is this an area that’s difficult for the voters to get excited about?
Most people would like to see the abolition of nuclear weapons, but voters are indecisive when it comes to whether or not Japan can completely reject its reliance on U.S. nuclear deterrence in the near future. Even if they have an interest in it, they tend to have no more than an abstract grasp of the issue.

How can Hiroshima’s views be conveyed to the national government?
Even within the same party some people have more interest in nuclear abolition and disarmament than others and opinions diverge. Regardless of their party affiliation, the voters should listen closely to the ideas and claims of each candidate. Whether or not the wishes of Hiroshima are being heard in the political arena will be a key factor when they make their selection on election day. And it will be necessary to keep an eye on the statements and actions of the local representative after the election.

(Originally published on August 18, 2009)

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