Friday 08 Oct 2021 | 00:58 | SYDNEY
Friday 08 Oct 2021 | 00:58 | SYDNEY

Japan: DPJ ambiguity on nukes


Rory Medcalf


31 August 2009 16:02

The election of a DPJ government in Japan brings to power a party supposedly supportive of new thinking on nuclear disarmament, in sync with President Obama's Nuclear Weapon Free World speech and the purposes of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and DisarmamentOr so it would seem if, for instance, one were to rely on such pronouncements as DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada's comments to Gareth Evans earlier this year, encouraging a US policy shift in favour of the declared No First Use of nuclear arms – views echoed in some Japanese press commentary last week. 

It is striking, then, that the DPJ election manifesto is so non-committal. Nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament receive just a few vague sentences in the (also cursory) foreign policy section at the end of this document, released just a few weeks ago. Perhaps this was because the party is divided on the issue, or because party strategists saw little to gain from making bold promises on such a tough subject when electoral victory was already so patently within reach. 

That said, there could well now be a push by some within a ruling DPJ to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons in Japan's defence policy. But they will have a serious fight on their hands, not only because of differences within their own party. Tokyo's foreign affairs and security establishment remains keen to tighten the extended deterrence relationship with Washington, especially in light of North Korea's threatening weapons-testing and China's military modernization. Washington has begun to reassure Japan on this front, and wisely reached out to the DPJ in July with the first round of what is likely to become a regular 'nuclear umbrella forum'.

 Photo by flickr user kamoda, used under a Creative commons license.