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2008年12月26日 (金)



--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 24(IHT/Asahi: December 26,2008)

EDITORIAL: Sato's nuclear request


Former Prime Minister Eisaku Sato (1901-1975), who set Japan's three non-nuclear principles and was awarded the 1974 Nobel Peace Prize, was actually a tough negotiator who sought a U.S. nuclear attack against China in the event of an outbreak of war between Japan and China, according to Foreign Ministry documents that were declassified on Monday.


A month before Sato became prime minister in November 1964, China jolted the world by conducting its first nuclear test while Tokyo was hosting that year's Summer Olympics. Japan's shock was profound.


It was previously revealed that Sato hinted at Japan's readiness to arm itself with nuclear weapons when he met with U.S. Ambassador Edwin O. Reischauer immediately upon taking office. He said to the effect: "If the other side (China) has nuclear weapons, we should have them, too. That's common sense."


But during his visit to the United States one month later in January 1965, Sato denied Japan's nuclear ambitions. "Japan is unequivocally opposed to the possession and use of nuclear weapons," he asserted, according to the newly declassified documents.


"Should a war break out (between Japan and China), we expect the United States to immediately launch a retaliatory nuclear strike (against China)," he said.

In short, Sato sought protection under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, and Washington agreed to comply.


The public was not informed of any of this. The horrors of the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were still fresh in the nation's collective memory at the time, and the government presumably decided the public was not yet ready to deal with this sort of thing.


But China's nuclear armament was a real threat, and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) had yet to come into being. From the declassified documents, we can imagine how these circumstances must have compelled Sato to take upon himself the role of a tough diplomatic negotiator who would drive a hard bargain with Washington.


More than four decades have since passed. How is Japan handling the nuke issue now?


India and Pakistan have gone nuclear, and the NPT regime itself is now shaky at best. For the Japanese people, North Korea's nuclear test in 2006 was as terrifying as the 1964 Chinese test. The United Nations adopts nuclear disarmament resolutions every year at the Japanese government's initiative, but when the United States inked a nuclear accord with India that effectively acknowledges the latter as a nuclear power, Japan had no choice but to recognize this agreement.


On the other hand, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and other prominent nuclear deterrence theorists called for "a world free of nuclear weapons" last year. This means nuclear proliferation has come to be recognized as a real threat to the world.


Yet, the Japanese people seem to be growing less concerned, not more. The six-party talks for ending North Korea's nuclear program are stalling over the verification issue, but Japan's approach to this situation is not as hot a subject of public interest as the abduction issue.


On the contrary, even some politicians are now voicing arguments in favor of Japan's nuclear armament that are tenuous at best.


Three years after his U.S. trip, Sato announced his three non-nuclear principles in his speech before the Diet, having concluded that possessing nuclear weapons would neither contribute to the national security nor benefit the Japan-U.S. security alliance. He also took into account the fact that public opinion at the time was overwhelmingly anti-nuclear.


Times have changed, and the world is more complex. Today, we need to debate and deal with the nuclear issue more objectively and realistically than in Sato's time.


It is foolish to discuss this issue on an emotional level. Sato's remarks in the declassified documents remind us of the responsibility of politicians.



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