LDP’S SECURITY RESEARCH COMMISSION MUST NOT BETRAY THE PEOPLE
Does the Security Research Commission (SRC) of the ruling Liberal-Democratic Party have tunnel vision about Japan’s security needs? Would it be impossible to expect the commission headed by former Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera to discuss Japan’s security based on the harsh geopolitical reality?
On March 16, the SRC invited three security experts to share their views on “extended deterrence” and “nuclear sharing” behind closed doors.
Under the extended deterrence scheme, the US is committed to Japan’s defense by counterattacking with nuclear force if Japan should come under a nuclear attack. Meanwhile, nuclear sharing discussed last week is based on the concept in NATO’s policy of nuclear deterrence, under which the US shares small tactical nuclear warheads with NATO members as deterrence against Russia. If a similar agreement is signed between the US and Japan, it would constitute an effective strategy for Japan, which has no nuclear weapons to put a check on hostile nations, such as China.
Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey are currently members of NATO with American nuclear weapons deployed under this nuclear sharing strategy. In case of a conflict in Europe, NATO would discuss the situation with the US and nuclear weapons would be delivered not by the US but by NATO members.
In-depth discussions of these two topics should naturally lead to the question of whether Japan’s “three no-nuclear” principles (non-possession, non-production, and non-introduction of nuclear weapons) will remain intact. Japan will definitely have to remove one of the three principles—non-introduction—should it decide to share nuclear weapons with the US.
I was troubled by what Hiroyuki Miyazawa, the SRC’s acting secretary-general and a LDP lawmaker, had to say to the press following the discussions at the SRC, as I will explain below. Given that his remarks were consistent in four major dailies that covered the discussions last Wednesday—the Sankei, the Mainichi, the Tokyo, and the Nikkei—I consider it safe to assume Miyazawa was quoted correctly. His conclusions as reported by the dailies were questionable in many ways, the more problematical of which were:
1) Pointing out that he recognized extended deterrence and nuclear sharing as having “been sufficiently discussed” with the experts that day, he concluded that no further discussions would be necessary.
2) As regards a proposed review of extended deterrence, nuclear sharing, and the three no-nuclear principles, he stated: “None of the parliamentarians present at the discussions made positive remarks about the necessity of a review and it was apparent that they unanimously understood that the proposed policy would be unsuitable for Japan.”
3) “The discussions have made it clear that the proposed review offers absolutely no benefits for Japan, as a use of nuclear weapons would naturally be met by a nuclear retaliation. In the first place, Japan would be targeted as soon as nuclear weapons were deployed within its territory.”
4) “As the only nation to suffer a nuclear attack, Japan must never compromise its commitment to the three no-nuclear principles, which is its contribution to world peace. These principles are our very important national credo.”
Overestimation of Power
With the commission slated to make practical national security proposals to LDP headquarters in May, Miyazawa stressed: “Under my authority, I will be incorporating neither ‘nuclear sharing’ nor ‘a review of the three no-nuclear principles’ into the proposals.”
Clearly, Miyazawa sees no need for further discussions of these matters and plans to instead formulate the SRC’s proposals “under my authority.” But how does he intend to address the general public, who are eagerly looking forward to further discussions? In a recent public opinion poll conducted by TBS, which generally tends to reflect liberal views, an overwhelming 78% of respondents favored “further discussions,” with 18% looking forward to “further discussions with an implementation of nuclear sharing in view” and 60% noting that “nuclear sharing should not be implemented but discussions should definitely be held.”
In surveys by two major conservative media outlets—the Sankei and Fuji News Network—83.1 % favored further discussions, with 20.3 % favoring further discussions “with an implementation of nuclear sharing in view” and 62.8% opposing nuclear sharing but pushing for “further discussions.”
What liberal and conservative media outlets in Japan unexpectedly have revealed is that people are looking forward to further discussing extended deterrence and nuclear sharing. Coming to grips with the harsh reality of the Ukrainians suffering from a brutal Russian invasion, many Japanese have come to sense instinctively that a similar invasion of Japan and Taiwan by China may not be too far-fetched. That is why many of us are eager to earnestly grapple with what measures and strategies would be available to defend ourselves. For too long, the government as well as we citizens have shied away from sincerely looking into matters pertaining to nuclear weapons, including nuclear sharing, with the result that our understanding of these matters is far from sufficient. Our no-nuclear principles are a noble idea for sure, but there are growing concerns about whether such notions alone are sufficient to defend Japan. That’s why more and more people are now calling for earnest discussion of these matters.
As mentioned earlier, Miyazawa has obviously decided to resort to his “authority” in refusing to include references to extended deterrence and a review of the three no-nuclear principles in the proposals the SRC is to submit to party headquarters. Concurrently serving as director of the party’s National Defense Division, he does indeed have considerable authority. But I do wish to pointedly ask this question: even if he is powerful within the LDP, does he really have the legitimate “authority” to limit further discussions of nuclear sharing and a review of the three no-nuclear principles when nearly 80% of the people in Japan favor such discussions? Also, does he really have the authority to refuse to incorporate the references into the proposals for party headquarters? I absolutely do not think the “authority” that he claims to have is that extensive. In a vain display of hubris, he has far overestimated his power.
“Go through the Motions”
Miyazawa also stated:
“Taking advise from senior members of the Diet that we should not consider anything taboo, we discussed all relevant matters. Holding these discussions with no foregone conclusions reflects the true character of the LDP.”
If he so insists, his commission should have generated more meaningful discussions. I suspect Miyazawa made that statement fully conscious of the proposals for proactive discussions of nuclear-related issues made by former prime minister Shinzo Abe and Ms Sanae Takaichi, chair of the LDP’s Policy Research Council. The three experts invited to the commission’s session last Wednesday allegedly opined unanimously that nuclear sharing is unsuitable for Japan with no potential benefits. Miyazawa told reporters that “there was an atmosphere of satisfaction (among the attendees) that the proposed policy is unfit for Japan.”
If he so insists, I would like for Miyazawa to answer this question: did he make an effort to invite experts who believe Japan should grapple proactively with a review of the three no-nuclear principles and nuclear sharing as hugely advantageous for our national security? There are no small number of specialists around me whose viewpoints are diametrically opposite to the trio invited to Miyazawa’s commission. To invite only those with one specific viewpoint and regard whatever they have to say as satisfactory reveals an obvious effort to “go through the motions” with no intent of a true debate.
Isn’t the behavior of the SRC this time a typical example of the LDP constantly making excuses? Has the ruling party led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida regressed to the point where it is unable to say what must be said on critical issues? I have not forgotten the cowardice the LDP demonstrated earlier this year when it failed to agree on a resolution condemning China for its brutal treatment of the Uyghurs in China.
Appearing on my regular “Genron” prime time Internet news show on March 18, Takaichi pointed out an important matter: discussions at the SRC have completely been stalled on the need to deploy medium-range ballistic missiles on small Japanese islands along the “First Island Chain” on the pretext that “there has been no proposal from the US.”
But the crucial point is that Japan should not wait until the US side makes a proposal to deploy missiles before discussing whether or not it should accept the proposal. We should face up to the reality that Japan must take its national defense fully into its own hands, exercise leadership, and put all available measures into practice without relying too heavily on the US. It is time for us to discuss every possible option, but our politicians entrusted with national defense, including Miyazawa and former defense ministers such as Onodera, do not look too keen to grapple with this issue.
These politicians also have developed a misleading contention that the three no-nuclear principles are Japan’s “national credo.” Since when has this become so? This type of random assertion must be stopped immediately. I entreat the LDP’s Security Research Commission to not disappoint the people of our nation any further.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 993 in the March 31, 2022 issue of The Weekly Shincho)