Japan seeks talks with U.S. over ‘no first use’ nuclear policy change

Kyodo

Japan wants to hold talks with the United States to relay its strong concern over the “no first use” policy for the U.S. nuclear arsenal that is being considered by Washington, Japanese government sources said Friday.

Opponents are worried that the landmark shift in policy would undermine the credibility of the nuclear deterrence provided to Japan and other allies under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, the sources said.

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to decide by the end of this month on whether to declare the policy shift to rule out a nuclear strike unless attacked by an adversary with nuclear weapons, a U.S. government source said.

Following his historic visit in May to Hiroshima, the first city devastated by a U.S. atomic bomb in 1945, Obama appears keen to push for the policy change.

Obama called for a world free of nuclear weapons in an address in Prague in 2009.

The policy change could be shelved depending on the reaction of allies such as Japan that rely on U.S. nuclear deterrence, analysts said.

Immediately after the plan was reported Monday in a column in The Washington Post, the Japanese government contacted the U.S. government and was told that no first use was one of a set of nuclear policy options being considered.

Among the five recognized nuclear powers, China is the only country that has a declared no first use nuclear policy. The other four are Britain, France, Russia and the United States.

Subsequently, the government started brainstorming on the policy’s ramifications for Japan’s security, with the Foreign Ministry asking Washington for bilateral talks to specifically discuss the matter, the sources said.

The issue was also raised during a regular dialogue on nuclear deterrence involving defense and foreign officials of Japan and the United States held for two days in Tokyo from July 11.

Based on discussions within the government so far, the sources said a majority is opposed to the policy change.

“From the (standpoint of) Japan’s security, it is unacceptable,” a senior government official close to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.

Atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki expressed anger over the government’s opposition to Obama’s move, saying such action “puts a damper on efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons” and is “unforgivable.”