Dispatches from Nagasaki No.17

The Reaction in Nagasaki to Reports on Obama Administration “No-First-Use” Nuclear Weapons Policy

On July 10, 2016, the Washington Post in the US reported that the Obama Administration was considering the adoption of a policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons. Mr. Tomihisa Taue, Mayor of Nagasaki, joined with Hiroshima Mayor Matsui in sending a joint letter on August 10 to the Japanese government asking it to stand behind the United States’ move toward a no-first-use nuclear weapons policy. In the letter, they wrote that “the direction taken in this reassessment is in line with Japanese government policy to date,” and called on the government to exercise leadership as the only country that has experienced nuclear bombing.

On July 22, RECNA issued a “Statement on ‘No-First-Use’ Nuclear Policy” (https://www.recna.nagasaki-u.ac.jp/recna/en-recnaseye/no6-en) in which it expressed the view that the Japanese government should support the no-first-use policy. On July 27, the three organizations of the Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs, the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, and the Nuclear Information website also sent a letter to Prime Minister Abe asking that he support the no-first-use policy. In the letter, they declared that “A country that has experienced nuclear bombing should not interfere with movements that reduce the nuclear risk.” (Chugoku Shimbun, July 28, 2016)

On the Nagasaki side, the Organizing Committee of the Nagasaki Global Citizens’ Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (Organizing Committee Chairman Masao Tomonaga) held a press conference at the Nagasaki City Hall on the 27th announcing that they had visited the US Ambassador and presented a petition on the 26th. The petition called for President Obama to make a visit to Nagasaki, where it asked that he “announce to the world his appeal and his resolve to make Nagasaki the last place to be subjected to nuclear attack.” (Nagasaki Shimbun, July 27, 2016) Then, on August 9, a joint letter consisting of a single sentence asking Prime Minister Abe not to obstruct the adoption of a no-first-use nuclear weapons policy by the Obama Administration was sent from Nagasaki by atomic bomb survivors’ organizations and nuclear disarmament experts from around the world. (International Open Letter Calling on the Japanese Government Not to Object to a US Nuclear Weapons No First Use Policy, “Please do not oppose a US pledge not to be a first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict, August 9, 2016, http://kakujoho.net/npt/lttr_nfu2.html) Among the signers were Hideo Tsuchiyama (former President of Nagasaki University), Chairman Masao Tomonaga of the Organizing Committee of the Nagasaki Global Citizens’ Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, President Toyoichi Ihara of the Society of Hibakusha Certificate Holders of Nagasaki Prefecture, and President Keiji Matsuda of the Nagasaki Prefectural Council Against A- and H-Bombs, among others.

However, a report that the Japanese government did oppose this for the reason that “the no-first-use nuclear weapons policy would weaken nuclear deterrence” was published in the US by the Wall Street Journal of August 12. Nagasaki Mayor Taue responded during his regular press conference on the 17th, saying that “if (this stance of opposition) were confirmed, then a protest or some form of appeal to the Japanese government would probably be made.” (Asahi Shimbun, August 19, 2016)

On August 16, the Asia Pacific Leadership for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament issued a statement supporting adoption of a no-first-use nuclear weapons policy. It was signed by 45 experts from 15 countries. (http://www.a-pln.org/statements/statements_view/APLN_No_First_Use_Statement_2016)

The signers from Japan included Yoriko Kawaguchi, former Foreign Minister of Japan, Nobuyasu Abe,  Commissioner of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, and Tatsujiro Suzuki, Director, Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition.

As is apparent, therefore, the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many experts, citizens’ groups, and atomic bomb survivors’ organizations, among others, support the no-first-use nuclear weapons policy. Although they called on the Japanese government not to obstruct the adoption of that policy, however, the New York Times of September 6 reported that the Obama Administration appeared likely to put off that policy change, in part due to opposition from allied nations.

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