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Fumio Ota

【#1039】Vision Alone Cannot Accomplish National Defense and Disarmament

Fumio Ota / 2023.05.25 (Thu)

May 22, 2023

The Group of Seven leaders at their annual summit in Hiroshima issued their “Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament.” The document includes the “ultimate goal” of realizing a “world without nuclear weapons” that is the desire of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida who is from Hiroshima, the world’s first atomic-bombed city.

However, even if the G7 leaders’ document strongly criticizes “threats by Russia of nuclear weapon use,” Russia will never stop its nuclear intimidation against Ukraine. China, described as “accelerating build-up of its nuclear arsenal without transparency nor meaningful dialogue,” will run through the number of its strategic nuclear warheads to 1,500 to match U.S. and Russian levels by 2035, as predicted by the U.S. Department of Defense. Even if the G7 leaders strongly urge North Korea to “refrain from any other destabilizing or provocative actions, including any further nuclear tests or launches that use ballistic missile technology,” its Kim Jong Un regime will never hold down the development of nuclear ballistic missiles reaching Continental U.S. and tactical nuclear missiles with down-sized warheads. In other words, China, Russia and North Korea will not care for the Hiroshima Vision at all.

Japan is required to have a strategy and concrete measures to achieve its national defense and promote nuclear disarmament. Expressing desires, declarations or issuing messages is not a strategy.

Unreasonable Japan’s maintenance of three non-nuclear principles

Of the three national security documents released by the Japanese government late last year, the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy advocated the adherence to the three non-nuclear principles – not possessing, not producing, and not permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons.

However, as a matter of fact, while China has deployed more than 2,000 theater nuclear weapons, Japan and the U.S. have zero. In order to bring China to a table for nuclear disarmament, Japan and the U.S. should first possess theater nuclear weapons and balance their forces. In a good model, in the 1980s, then West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt accepted the U.S.’ deployment of Pershing II and Tomahawk missiles in West Germany to counter Soviet SS-20 for U.S.-Soviet intermediate-range nuclear force (INF) negotiations, leading to the complete abolition of their INF missiles. Accordingly, Japan should at least revise its three non-nuclear principles.

Build up western Pacific tactical/theater nuclear forces

The Washington Declaration released on the occasion of a U.S.-South Korea summit in late April called for a U.S. SSBN (nuclear ballistic missile submarine)’s regular visit to South Korea. But a visit to South Korea by a U.S. SSBN that can attack North Korea from waters around Continental U.S. is not only meaningless but also risks allowing China and Russia to steal U.S. SSBN acoustic prints.

Although the U.S. Biden administration has canceled the Trump administration’s decision to develop submarine-launched nuclear cruise missiles, I hope that the U.S. will deploy SSGN submarines armed with tactical/theater nuclear cruise missiles in the western Pacific.

My hope is shared within the U.S. Navy. The March 2023 issue of the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings monthly magazine carried a first prize-winning essay recommending that half the 12 planned Columbia-class SSBN submarines be transformed into SSGN submarines for deployment in the western Pacific.

“In order to ensure that U.S. extended deterrence with nuclear deterrence at its core remains credible and resilient, Japan will further actively engage in and deepen bilateral discussions on extended deterrence including those at the ministerial level,” says Japan’s National Defense Strategy. I want the government to discuss the enhancement of tactical/theater nuclear forces with the U.S.

Fumio Ota is a Councilor and a Planning Committee member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals. He is a retired Vice Admiral of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.