Japanese disarmament organizations and experts call on political parties to support a U.S. no-first-use policy

The Japanese government and all political parties should support a United States no-first-use policy, according to an open letter sent to Japan’s eight major political parties on Sept. 7.

The letter, which was endorsed by 22 Japanese organizations and another 47 individual experts, was sent in response to Japan Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and other officials expressing opposition earlier this year to the possibility of the U.S. adopting a no-first-use policy.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is currently conducting a Nuclear Policy Review, and has been reported to be considering the adoption of a no-first-use policy. Such a policy move would be an important step in reducing the risk of nuclear war and paving the way for nuclear disarmament.

Adoption by the U.S. of a no-first-use policy would impact on the alliances that the United States has with NATO countries, Japan, South Korea and Australia, under which the U.S. provides extended deterrence – including nuclear deterrence – for them. Currently, this extended nuclear deterrence relationship includes the option of first-use of nuclear weapons in the ‘defence’ of these countries. If  their governments oppose the move to no-first-use, it makes it very difficult for the U.S. Administration to make such a policy move.  

The Open Letter to the Japanese political parties warns of possible domestic outrage if Japanese government opposition to a no-first-use policy declaration prevents its adoption by the Biden administration. 

“If this declaration is abandoned due to opposition from Japan, many Japanese will likely be surprised and angry. If Japan stops this small-but important-one step towards the abolition of nuclear weapons, it will be tragic.” say the letter endorsers. 

Some U.S. opponents of no-first-use argue that such a policy reduces the security of U.S. allies and might lead some of them – in particular Japan – to consider developing their own nuclear weapons.

Indeed, the Open letter says that “When the Obama administration was considering a no-first-use declaration, it was reported that one of the main reasons for abandoning the declaration was the concern that Japan might go nuclear if Japan’s opposition was ignored.

The Open Letter argues that this assessment is wrong, and calls on Japanese political parties to affirm that it is wrong. In particular, the letter asks the parties to: “Make it clear that you will not oppose a Biden administration’s declaration of a no-first-use, sole-purpose policy,” and “Assure that such a policy will not increase the likelihood of Japan becoming a nuclear power.”

The Open Letter was prepared and led by five organizations – Nagasaki Global Citizens’ Assembly for Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, Peace Depot and Japan Pugwash Group – with drafting support from experts Tatsujiro Suzuki (Professor of nuclear energy at Nagasaki University), Hiromichi Umebayashi, (Peace Depot Special Adviser and North East Asia Coordinator for Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament), Michiji Konuma (Professor Emeritus, Keio University), Takao Takahara (Professor, Meiji Gakuin University) and Keiko Nakamura (Associate Professor, Nagasaki University).

The letter supports a similar one sent by prominent U.S. groups and individuals sent to the Japanese government and political parties on August 9. See United States experts call on Japan not to oppose a US no-first-use policy

Photo: Memorial to Sadako Sasaki at the Hiroshima Peace Park. Photo by Pixabay