Hiroshima Memo: "Peace-Creating Nation" gives no heed to appeals of the A-bombed cities and relies on "nuclear umbrella"

by Akira Tashiro, Executive Director of the Hiroshima Peace Media Center

I wonder if "false advertising" is too strong an expression. That was my impression after I read the report entitled "Japan's Vision for Future Security and Defense Capabilities in the New Era: Toward a Peace-Creating Nation." The report was compiled at the end of August by Prime Minister Naoto Kan's advisory panel, the Council on Security and Defense Capabilities in the New Era, which is comprised of 11 members, including scholars, businesspeople, and former senior officials of the Ministry of Defense.

Japan has a peace constitution and calls itself "the only nation to have suffered nuclear attack" at the United Nations and other places at every opportunity. If this nation, as the subtitle of the report indicates, argues that it should work actively in the international arena as a "peace-creating nation," many in the world who seek the elimination of nuclear weapons would have heightened expectations for Japan.

However, the contents of the report emphasize the idea of extended deterrence, including the U.S conventional and nuclear forces, and in particular, the importance of the "nuclear umbrella." Regarding the three non-nuclear principles, a national credo, the report advocates that Japan review the principle of "not allowing nuclear weapons on its territory" in some circumstances. Meanwhile, the report proposes that Japan strengthen its military might on its own and that the nation review the ban on the exercise of the right of collective self-defense and the policy of prohibiting arms exports.

What underlies this argument is further dependence on military might, as well as the exercise of the right of collective self-defense and the dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces overseas, including to conflict regions, after a revision of the constitution. The idea that Japan will, based on the spirit of the peace constitution, make active efforts in the world in pursuit of disarmament, including nuclear disarmament, is nowhere to be found.

Needless to say, the primary responsibility for concrete steps toward the elimination of nuclear weapons rests with the governments and the people of nuclear weapon states. However, Japan, which relies on the U.S. nuclear deterrence, and some nations in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including Germany, also have major responsibility. The reality that some nations have remained under the "nuclear umbrella" provides the United States with an excuse to slow its pace in pursuit of nuclear disarmament, which also gives other nuclear weapon states an excuse for their slow action.

The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May of this year unanimously adopted the final document, which included the 64-item action plan for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. At the United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues, which was held in the city of Saitama at the end of August in the wake of the NPT Review Conference, government officials of non-nuclear weapon states and participants from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), among others, directed criticism at and posed questions about Japan's attitude of seeking the extended nuclear deterrence by the United States.

In their peace declarations delivered in August, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki strongly requested that the Japanese government enshrine the three non-nuclear principles into law and abandon the nuclear umbrella. This is because both cities think that Japan, amid growing momentum for nuclear disarmament and abolition in the world, has the moral responsibility to lead these efforts. The double standard of Japan, which depends on nuclear might while advocating nuclear abolition, is no longer acceptable in the international community. However, the proposals in the report have given no heed to the appeals of the A-bombed cities, instead rejecting them.

The reshuffled Cabinet of Naoto Kan intends to work out the new National Defense Program Guidelines by the end of this year. If the appeals of the A-bombed cities are not taken into account for the guidelines, I cannot help but say that the notion of a "peace-creating nation" is merely a trick of words.

(Originally published on September 20, 2010)

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