--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 19
EDITORIAL: Abe should be backing Obama’s ‘no first use’ nuclear proposal
(社説)核先制不使用 首相はオバマ氏に力を

The nuclear “no first use” principle means a country will not use nuclear weapons unless it is first attacked by an enemy using nuclear arms.

U.S. President Barack Obama is said to be considering adopting this policy. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has conveyed his opposition to such a move to Adm. Harry Harris Jr., head of the U.S. Pacific Command, according to a recent report by The Washington Post.

The report said Abe expressed concerns that if Obama declares a “no first use” policy, deterrence against North Korea will suffer and the risks of conflict will rise.

The Japanese government has made no official comment on the report, and it is not clear if Abe really made these remarks.

The Japanese government’s traditional position has been that it cannot support the “no first use” policy because it would undermine deterrence of the nuclear umbrella.

Talking to The Asahi Shimbun about the report, a senior Foreign Ministry official said: “If the U.S. administration declares no first use of nuclear weapons, there can be no extended deterrence provided by the United States to protect Japan. That’s not going to happen.”

For Japan, which once suffered nuclear devastation, this stance is too backward-looking to take.

There can be no winner or loser in a nuclear war.

And the risk of nuclear warfare cannot be eliminated as long as nations depend on nuclear deterrence for their security.

A major nuclear power’s attempt to reduce the role of nuclear arms in national security is a boost to efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation.

A harsh assessment of the security environment is necessary. But many experts argue that conventional weapons of the U.S. military offer sufficient deterrence against North Korea and other countries.

In his speech in Hiroshima three months ago, Obama said, “We must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them (nuclear weapons).”

Abe, who stood beside Obama in Hiroshima, should cooperate actively with the president in his bid to promote the policy of “no first use.”

In addition to Japan, South Korea, which is also protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella, and two nuclear powers--Britain and France--have communicated their concerns about the change in the U.S. nuclear-weapons policy, according to The Washington Post.

On the other hand, a group of former government officials of Asia-Pacific countries, including former Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi and former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, recently released a joint statement calling on the Obama administration to pledge never to be the first to use nuclear weapons and urging Japan and other U.S. allies to support the policy.

Japan, which has first-hand experiences of the ravages of nuclear attacks, should never take action that hinders any global trend toward a world without nuclear weapons.

Japan’s foreign policy should be focused on efforts to realize a security system not dependent on the nuclear umbrella. Tokyo should declare its will to pursue that goal and hold serious negotiations with Washington to achieve it.

Such efforts would enhance Japan’s moral position and contribute to stability and peace in the region.

In Hiroshima, Abe pledged to “continue to make efforts” to realize a world without nuclear weapons.

Abe needs to offer a clear vision and take concrete actions to deliver on his promise.