Hiroshima and Nagasaki citizens’ groups warned that Japan could spark domestic outrage if it opposes a no-first-use of nuclear weapons expected to come from the Biden administration.
“If this declaration is abandoned due to opposition from Japan, many Japanese will likely be surprised and angry,” the citizens’ groups and individuals warned in an open letter to Japan’s eight major political parties sent on Sept. 7.
The letter seconds the sentiment of one sent by prominent U.S. groups and individuals to the parties to request Japan not to oppose the ban on the 76th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki by U.S. forces on Aug. 9.
The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has been reported to be considering declaring a no-first-use policy in its Nuclear Posture Review to be completed in 2022 to reduce the risk of nuclear war.
Five groups led the call for the letter, including the Nagasaki Global Citizens’ Assembly for Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, the Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition and the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center.
In addition, five individuals, including Hiromichi Umebayashi, special adviser to the nonprofit organization Peace Depot, and Tatsujiro Suzuki, a professor of nuclear energy at Nagasaki University, were also primary writers of the letter.
Another 17 groups and 19 individuals added their signatures in consent with the spirit of the letter.
Japanese officials, including Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, expressed opposition in April to the no-first-use policy shortly after the start of the Biden administration.
On Aug. 9, 26 groups and individuals in the United States, including former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry and the Federation of American Scientists, sent an open letter to the eight major political parties expressing concern about the opposition from Japanese officials.
“It would be tragic if Japan, the only country to suffer nuclear attacks and a staunch advocate of the abolition of nuclear weapons, blocked this small but important step toward the abolition of nuclear weapons,” a portion of the letter read.
The administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama also considered adopting a no-first-use policy, but abandoned the plan, apparently due to the concern among some U.S. conservatives that U.S. allies “might develop their own nuclear weapons.”
Japanese officials have long been wary of any such no-first-use policy on the part of Washington because of concerns that would lower U.S. deterrence.
Motegi, when he expressed opposition in April, said such a policy would not function unless “all nuclear powers simultaneously implemented such a policy in a verifiable manner.”
Citizens’ groups in Japan argue that such views will be interpreted by Americans as evidence that Japan is considering possessing nuclear weapons and would be deliberately used by conservative elements in the United States to oppose a no-first-use policy.