US- Japan Security Cooperation

I’m still in Nagasaki, thinking about the US- Japan “security” relationship. Specifically, my attention was drawn to the 3 October Joint Statement of the Security Consultative Committee: Toward a More Robust Alliance and Greater Shared Responsibilities, in which the US and Japan “reconfirmed our Alliance’s commitment to the security of Japan through the full range of U.S. military capabilities, including nuclear and conventional.”

I am continually astonished that the Japanese government could ever let nuclear weapons be used on behalf of the Japanese people. This is the only country that was ever bombed in wartime, by that very same US. What hypocrisy! How could the government let its people down, especially the survivors of those attacks 68 years ago.

The 3 October agreement is designed to revise the 1997 Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation, and is looking to expand security and defense cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. One of the sentences that jumped out at me from the agreement “is realignment of U.S. forces in Japan is to ensure that the U.S. presence maintains deterrence and provides for the capabilities to defend Japan and respond to regional contingencies, while remaining politically sustainable.”

It is the point about political sustainability that jumped out. Nuclear weapons and the ongoing reliance on nuclear weapons in security strategies is not politically sustainable. It is contradictory to what Japan, as a member of the Non Proliferation Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) has said in other forums, where it has called for a reduced reliance on nuclear weapons in security concepts and doctrines.

What is hopeful is that the Extended Deterrence Dialogue between Japan and the US will continue. While described as reinforcing the “the credibility of the U.S. defense commitment to Japan, including through discussions of nuclear and conventional capabilities”, there is also an agreement to continue the dialogue on a regular basis. This presents an opportunity for the Japanese, to discuss with the US how to reinforce their security cooperation without nuclear weapons. As an example, they can look to New Zealand – US non-nuclear military cooperation which has been enhanced since 2009.

Overall, these few days in Nagasaki have reminded me that despite the history of the use of nuclear weapons in this country- the politicians and government don’t seem to have gotten the message. Hopefully this conference can reinforce that Japan, a country currently working on its national security strategy, must remember the past and prevent the catastrophic consequences of any use of nuclear weapons again- especially in their name.