Secret pacts on nuclear arms and other issues were reached between Japan and the United States during the Cold War, a Foreign Ministry panel concluded Tuesday, effectively ending the government’s decades-long official denial.
While the pacts have already been exposed through U.S. declassified documents and other sources, the panel’s investigation, launched after the Democratic Party of Japan’s historic rise to power last year, made clear that previous governments led by the ousted, but long-ruling, Liberal Democratic Party were “dishonest” about the issue and raised questions over the management and disclosure of diplomatic papers.
Among the pacts the panel acknowledged was “a tacit agreement” that emerged during the 1960 revision of the Japanese-U.S security treaty that led to Tokyo effectively allowing port calls by U.S. vessels carrying nuclear weapons without prior consultation.
Earlier reports also said entry of U.S. aircraft carrying atomic weapons was also covered by the pact.
Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said Tuesday he cannot rule out that nuclear weapons were brought into Japan under the secret pacts.
Officially, Washington was supposed to consult with Tokyo beforehand when bringing nuclear weapons into the country, due to strong antinuclear sentiment among the Japanese public.
With the details of the bilateral security arrangements finally brought to light from the Japanese side in the form of about 330 newly declassified documents, the panel revealed that the country’s nonnuclear principles of not possessing, producing or allowing nuclear weapons on its territory were a sham.
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, the DPJ president, said earlier his government would stick to the three nonnuclear principles, first declared in 1967 by then Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, even if the panel admits the existence of the secret nuclear deal to the contrary.
Japan has, up to now, maintained that since prior consultations have never taken place, no atomic weapons have been brought into Japan.
Under Okada’s initiative, the Foreign Ministry and an expert panel, headed by University of Tokyo professor Shinichi Kitaoka, have looked into four alleged secret pacts, including the nuclear arms deal.
In the report, the panel looked into both explicitly documented pacts and tacit accord, whose contents often differ from those specified on paper.
The panel acknowledged there was a secret pact allowing Washington to use U.S. bases in Japan without prior consultation in the event of a crisis on the Korean Peninsula, as well as one covering cost burdens for the 1972 return of Okinawa to Japan from U.S. rule.
But it said another alleged pact to allow Washington to bring nuclear weapons into Okinawa in an emergency does not fit the definition of a “secret pact” as it was unlikely to go far beyond the content of the 1969 Japan-U.S. statement on Okinawa’s reversion.
As for the secret nuclear deal, the panel concluded that, at the time of the security treaty revision, Japan and the U.S. “intentionally” avoided the question of whether the entry of U.S. vessels into Japanese ports would be subject to prior consultations so as not to disrupt the alliance.
“By leaving the issue ambiguous, (U.S.) ships carrying nuclear weapons could stop at Japanese ports without prior consultation, while Japan, according to its official stance, could deny such a development. But neither side would make a protest,” the panel’s report said.
This tacit agreement, or “secret pact in a broad sense,” in 1963 became set policy after then U.S. Ambassador to Japan Edwin O. Reischauer told Foreign Minister Masayoshi Ohira that Washington did not consider the port calls a matter for prior consultation.
Although Tokyo was aware U.S. nuclear-armed ships were likely to frequent its ports, the government did not protest and representatives continued to say in the Diet that port calls by such vessels would be subject to prior consultation, the report said.
“The Japanese government offered dishonest explanations, including lies, from beginning to end. This attitude should not have been allowed under the principle of democracy,” the panel said.
But the panel also pointed out it was not easy in those days to achieve a balance “between a nuclear deterrence strategy in the Cold War era and the Japanese people’s antinuclear sentiments.”
The report noted that after the 1991 announcement by then U.S. President George H.W. Bush, after the Cold War ended, that the U.S. would pull tactical nuclear arms from its vessels, the port call issue no longer troubled Japan-U.S. ties.
On the agreement that allowed Washington to use U.S. bases in Japan in the event of a crisis on the Korean Peninsula, the panel said that while it found a document proving that secret pact existed, it is no longer in effect.
On Okinawa’s reversion costs, the panel said a secret pact in a broad sense can be confirmed, under which Tokyo agreed to shoulder $4 million the U.S. was supposed to pay to restore plots used by U.S. forces to their original state.
Meanwhile, the panel proposed that the Foreign Ministry consider ways to ensure its basic policy of declassifying documents after 30 years is followed by, for example, increasing the staff handling such tasks. It also said it is undesirable for so much of Japan’s diplomatic history to be described mainly in the records of other countries.
It also expressed regret that many key documents were missing, and it called for further investigations amid media reports that there was an internal order at the ministry to destroy documents related to the secret nuclear pact.