Japan should support the US nuclear “no-first-use” policy initiative
July 27, 2016
It has been reported that the US President is considering the declaration of a “no first use” policy for the US nuclear arsenal, but that Japan is opposing the US initiative1. Japan should support this initiative and take a stronger leadership role in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in order to improve the security environment in the region. Indeed, if introduced, this initiative will be a good and constructive first step towards the elimination of nuclear weapons following President Obama’s recent historic visit to Hiroshima in May 2016,
Given the expanding nuclear capability of North Korea and possibly of China, some argue that the introduction of a nuclear “no-first-use” policy on the part of the US administration could undermine the credibility of the “extended nuclear deterrence (nuclear umbrella)” provided by the US. This seems to be the primary reason behind Japan’s opposition to the US initiative. We believe, however, such an argument is based not on careful analysis of the situation, but rather on a blind belief in nuclear deterrence theory and the Cold War mentality.
In reality, a “first use” of nuclear weapons by any country will inevitably lead to catastrophic humanitarian consequences in the region with possible escalation of nuclear exchanges and thus will never serve Japan or any country’s security interests. As for “deterring” North Korea, even now the US and its allies have overwhelming conventional military capability, backed by their economic and political dominance over North Korea, and thereby any military action, including nuclear attack, by North Korea can be possibly deterred, without taking recourse to nuclear weapons. On the other hand, any use of nuclear weapons against North Korea is not only illegal and immoral, but it also could result in a retaliatory attack against Japan in the worst case. On the contrary, a “no-first-use” policy will enhance crisis stability and de-alerting will decrease accidental launches. Therefore, opposing the nuclear “no-first-use” policy has no rational grounds, and will rather endanger the security of Japan and the region as a whole.
Lastly we would like to emphasize that endorsing the US adoption of a “no-first-use” policy is only a small step forward. Japan should take a more pro-active role in introducing legally binding measures to prohibit nuclear weapons, which is the only path towards the achievement of “nuclear- weapon-free world”.
We stress also that promoting “dialogue across divides” is a more effective security measure. Japan should take an initiative, cooperating with the US and other countries, to develop confidence building measures in the region. A “Track-2” approach, with which the Pugwash Conferences has a long history of success, could effectively contribute to Japan’s security.
1 Kyodo News, “Seifu, Kakuseisaku de Bei ni Kyougi Yosei (The Japanese government is now considering to request discussion on nuclear policy),” July 15, 2016. http://jp.reuters.com/article/idJP2016071501002252
"who endorsed this statement"
Masako Ikegami,Tomohiro Inagaki,Hiromichi Umebayashi,Masakatsu Ota,Yoko Kobayashi,Yoshiko Kurita,Michiji Konuma,
Mayumi Sugiyama,Shoji Sawada,Tatsujiro Suzuki,Takao Takahara,Seigo Hirowatari,Masakatsu Yamazaki,Fumihiko Yoshida,
(As of July 27, 2016)