Panel Begins Examination of Secret U.S-Japan Nuke Deal

Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009

A panel put together by Japan’s foreign ministry to examine whether the island nation entered into a secret nuclear deal with the United States held its first session last Friday, Kyodo News reported (see GSN, Nov. 25).

A report of the expert panel’s findings is scheduled to be handed over next month to Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada.

Elections in September resulted in a transfer of power from Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party to the left-of-center Democratic Party of Japan. The new coalition government has promised to make public its investigation into the rumored nuclear agreement, which is believed to have allowed U.S. vessels carrying nuclear weapons to stop over in Japan without prior permission from Tokyo (Kyodo News/, Nov. 24).

Japan publicly follows principles that prohibit it from manufacturing, possessing or permitting the presence of nuclear weapons on its territory. Should Tokyo publicly recognize the secret nuclear deal, it would face a decision on whether to amend its nonnuclear principles, the Jiji Press Service reported.

One option would involve amending its principle of “not allowing nuclear weapons into Japan” to “not allowing the deployment of nuclear weapons on Japanese soil,” which would still permit U.S. nuclear vessels to make port visits in Japan.

Alternatively, Japan could enforce the 1960 security pact with Washington that requires it to consult with Tokyo prior to sending any nuclear vessels through Japan. Such a move is considered unlikely, though, as Washington suspended its commitment to defend New Zealand after the island nation began requiring in the 1980s that all U.S. Navy warships docking at its ports provide “nonnuclear certificates.”

A foreign ministry source said if Tokyo followed a similar path, the U.S. nuclear umbrella over Japan would likely be negatively affected.

The third option that the government could take would be to recognize the secret nuclear agreement, but do nothing else (Jiji News Service, Nov. 28).



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