Secret agreements to get along

A Foreign Ministry panel of experts on Tuesday concluded that secret agreements existed between the United States and Japan concerning the “bringing in” of U.S. nuclear weapons to Japan, military operations of U.S. armed forces from Japanese bases in an “emergency” on the Korean Peninsula, and cost burdens shouldered by Japan in the 1972 reversion of Okinawa from the U.S. to Japan.

Time and again, the former Liberal Democratic Party administrations had denied the existence of such agreements. It has become clear that they did not tell the truth to the people. In departing from their practice, the current Democratic Party of Japan administration should now take the opportunity to maximize transparency in diplomacy. In some situations, the government may have to conduct diplomacy secretly. In such a case, the government must keep accurate records so that later generations can clearly understand what happened and why.

As to the secret agreement on “bringing in” nuclear weapons, the panel said the Japanese government told the Diet — in connection with the signing of the 1960 Japan-U.S. Security Treaty — that stopovers in Japan as well as transit through Japanese territorial waters of U.S. military ships carrying nuclear weapons would be subject to prior consultation as required by the treaty. Japan found that the U.S. saw things differently, the panel said.

Therefore, the panel said, Japan and the U.S. decided to leave the matter “ambiguous,” allowing the possibility that U.S. ships carrying nuclear weapons might make port calls in Japan or transit through Japanese territorial waters without prior consultation. It said this “tacit agreement” became firm after U.S. Ambassador Edwin O. Reischauer told Foreign Minister Masayoshi Ohira in April 1963 that port calls or transit by U.S. ships carrying nuclear weapons did not constitute “introduction” of nuclear weapons, which was subject to prior consultation.

In 1967, Prime Minister Eisaku Sato declared Japan’s three-point nonnuclear principle of not “producing,” not “possessing” and not allowing the “bringing in” of nuclear weapons. The third point has been interpreted to mean that Japan would not allow either the stationing (introduction) or transiting of nuclear weapons on its territory, or port calls by ships carrying nuclear weapons.

As to the earlier administrations’ explanation that there had been no “bringing in” of U.S. nuclear weapons into Japanese territory because the U.S. had never asked for prior consultation, the panel said, “The Japanese government offered dishonest explanations, including lies, from beginning to end,” thus torpedoing the traditional explanation.

The panel’s findings prompted Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada to say that he could not rule out the possibility that U.S. ships carrying nuclear weapons made port calls in Japan or transited through Japanese territorial waters.

But the panel said that because of U.S. President George H.W. Bush’s 1991 announcement that the U.S. would withdraw tactical nuclear weapons from its naval ships, the port call and transit issue no longer troubles Japan-U.S. ties. The U.S. also maintains a “neither confirm nor deny” policy with regard to the deployment of nuclear weapons.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama declared that Japan will continue to uphold its three-point nonnuclear principle, adding that U.S. nuclear and other deterrence is necessary for the Japan-U.S. security arrangement and for the Asia-Pacific region. The Hatoyama administration should use this chance to cooperate further with the Obama administration in working out effective ways to prevent nuclear proliferation and to remove seeds of conflict in East Asia. Both countries must strive to prevent the development of any situation that might lead to threats to use nuclear weapons.

Other findings by the panel:

(1) Although a concrete document verifies a secret pact to let U.S. armed forces operate from Japanese bases to cope with an emergency on the Korean Peninsula, the pact lost its effect after Prime Minister Sato announced that Japan would not oppose the U.S. taking up the matter for prior consultations.

(2) Japan agreed to shoulder $20 million, including $4 million the U.S. was supposed to pay to help restore U.S. military areas to farmland, in addition to the original $300 million planned for Okinawa reversion. But no binding written agreements exist.

(3) Although secret minutes signed by Sato and U.S. President Richard Nixon were found recently — in which the U.S. was allowed to bring nuclear weapons into Okinawa in an emergency after its reversion to Japan — the minutes did not go beyond the November 1969 joint statement by the two.

During its study, the panel noticed that some important documents that should have existed were missing. The Diet should call witnesses to pinpoint who is responsible for the disappearance of the documents by invoking Article 62 of the Constitution, which empowers the Diet to conduct investigations related to the administration of government.