The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 26, 2009)
Pact probe must not dilute U.S. N-deterrence

A full investigation into alleged secret pacts involving the entry into Japan of U.S. nuclear weapons--among other issues said to have been agreed between Tokyo and Washington--is essential to recover public trust in this nation's diplomacy.

However, the probe must not be allowed to weaken the effect of the U.S. forces' nuclear deterrence.

A panel of experts set up by the Foreign Ministry to investigate the alleged pacts will hold its first meeting Friday.

Based on the results of an in-house Foreign Ministry investigation, the panel members will interview retired ministry officials before submitting a report to Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada in January.

The panel will examine four alleged secret pacts, including one said to have been inked in 1960 when the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty was revised. This agreement reportedly effectively allowed U.S. military ships and airplanes carrying nuclear arms to visit or pass through Japan without prior consultation between the two governments.

Disclosed U.S. diplomatic documents and the testimony of a former administrative vice-minister for foreign affairs have already undermined the credibility of the former government's official denial of the existence of the pacts. Furthermore, the ministry's latest probe unearthed a document supporting the pacts' existence.


Extenuating circumstances?

It is highly significant that Okada is launching his own inquiry after the Democratic Party of Japan wrested power from the Liberal Democratic Party and he was made foreign minister.

If the DPJ-led government was to officially admit the existence of the secret pacts based on the results of the inquiry, it would be the first step to dispelling the sense of mistrust felt by the public.

However, we can understand the circumstances under which the government at that time deemed it necessary to draw up a secret deal with the United States to secure the effectiveness of the U.S. "nuclear umbrella," while consideration likely was paid to the antipathy of Japanese people toward nuclear arms during the Cold War period.

We expect the panel members to take into account the historical background of the period and try to discern how such pacts might have been thrashed out.

Secrets are an inherent part of diplomatic negotiations. During such bargaining, there is much information that cannot immediately be disclosed in terms of maintaining relations of trust with a partner country and preventing harm to the people concerned. However, it is important to deepen discussions on the kind of circumstances in which it is appropriate to disclose such information after a certain period of time.

Hereafter, discussions must be held to review the three nonnuclear principles of not producing, not possessing and not allowing the entry of nuclear arms into this country.


Looking ahead

Japan's present security situation is becoming increasingly unstable in light of North Korea's declared possession of nuclear weapons, for example. This makes it necessary to maintain and even improve the U.S. forces' nuclear deterrence.

In 1991, the United States removed tactical nuclear weapons from its military ships and nuclear submarines. This made the entry of nuclear weapons into Japan unlikely, at least for a while. But in the medium-to-long term, there is no guarantee that a neighboring country will not threaten the security of this nation with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

A founding principle of national security is that a country must remain militarily flexible to deal with changing situations.

We believe it may be time for the government to seriously consider introducing "2-1/2 nonnuclear principles," which would still prohibit the deployment of nuclear arms on the ground but would allow ships and airplanes carrying nuclear weapons to visit Japan.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 26, 2009)
(2009年11月26日01時06分 読売新聞)