Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

It is not unrealistic to set a “Non-Nuclear-armed, Non-aligned” Japan as a goal.
HANABUSA Masamichi /  Former Ambassador to Italy; Emeritus Chairman, The English-Speaking Union of Japan

January 31, 2023
The environment surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly fraught with tension with Putin's nuclear blackmail and the development of nuclear weapons delivery vehicles by North Korea and China. There is a heightened sense of dependence on the U.S. “nuclear umbrella” for Japan's security in the name of extended deterrence. At the same time, however, we should not lose sight of the growing international concern about the urgency of restricting or banning the use of nuclear weapons.

According to the doctrine of mutual assured destruction (MAD), it has been said that the capacity to retaliate with a second strike, which is not destroyed by a first strike, has maintained the security of the two nuclear superpowers, the United States and Russia. Because of the geopolitical environment of Northeast Asia, it has been believed that Japan can rely on the U.S. nuclear umbrella for her absolute security.

However, I believe that MAD is an "absolute security" doctrine for a nuclear superpower with a vast land area, and does not apply to smaller countries. It is more rational to doubt if the U.S., though an ally, would use nuclear weapons to defend Japan's remote islands.

Japan's first "National Security Strategy," approved by the Abe Cabinet in 2013, made clear Japan’s intention to defend itself and opened the door to a realistic defense strategy. The national security legislation in the following year made it possible for Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense under certain circumstances. North Korea's repeated missile launches and Russia's invasion of Ukraine have changed the Japanese people's defense consciousness in a pragmatic way.

Be that as it may, it remains true that military action is an undesirable outcome of failed diplomatic endeavors. We should concentrate our discussions more on enhancing our security through diplomacy.

Henry Kissinger (U.S. Secretary of State in both the Nixon and Ford administrations) believed that Japan would inevitably become nuclear-armed, and remained optimistic for many years that China would become moderate as its economy developed. This was largely a reflection of Kissinger's benign view of China and his starkly contrasting harsh view of Japan. He persistently felt that, as Japan becomes more economically powerful, it will become a military power and will eventually act independently. It would therefore be in the U.S. interest to cooperate with China to restrain a dangerous Japan. For the Japanese, this was a preposterous, misguided view.

When I was Consul General in New York in the 1980s and early 1990s, through the good offices of Akio Morita, Chairman of Sony Corporation, I invited Henry Kissinger for a dinner at my official residence, and later we exchanged views over breakfast at a hotel on several occasions. He adamantly believed that Japan would become a nuclear-armed power. I kept saying to him, "The Japanese people, who experienced the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, have a special antipathy toward nuclear weapons, and many of them oppose even the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Japan would never possess nuclear weapons.” However, he would not budge, and our views never converged.

He was always favorably disposed to China, explaining to the Chinese that the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty would prevent Japan from becoming a military power. He also viewed things in Asia from the perspective of the global balance of power, but his knowledge of Japan was limited and he did not understand the subtleties of the Japanese psyche.

In the 2010s, the growing distrust of China in the U.S. finally broke the "Kissinger spell" and ended the pro-China U.S. bias. For one thing, Japan's importance to the U.S. has increased. However, we cannot be complacent. Because, at the same time, it is high time for Japan to break free of its inertia and contemplate a long-term diplomatic and security strategy.

There are several core truths in diplomacy. Firstly, there is no permanent enemy or ally. The current close relationship between China and Russia, who were once at daggers drawn, is a case in point.

Secondly, in diplomatic negotiations, solutions that are close to “fifty-fifty” mutual concessions are likely to be durable, and there is no such thing as a one-sided victory. Wise diplomacy is to make concessions in a timely manner to create a positive cycle. Unyielding diplomacy that remains stuck in a fixed position with no concession at all does not really deserve to be called diplomacy. Japan's relations with its four neighbors (South Korea, China, Russia, and North Korea) are marked by this tendency. It is probably rare in the world for a country to have such less-than-normal relations with all its immediate neighbors.

One example of this unyielding diplomacy is the Senkaku Islands (Okinawa Prefecture). Japan keeps insisting that “The Senkaku Islands have historically been an inherent Japanese territory”, and the argument goes no further. At the time of the normalization of relations between Japan and China, Deng Xiaoping said, "Our generation is not smart, so let's put off this problem to the future.” The Japanese side says, "We have neither heard nor promised that.” This is not the way to move forward.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the opinion seems to be gaining ground in Japan that Japan should continue its righteous insistence that Russia should return all four islands comprising the Northern Territories once and for all. Rather than dismissing compromise as weak-mindedness, why can we, as a nation, not have the quiet self-confidence to think from the cool-headed perspective of "creating a positive cycle"?

Looking to the future, the current confrontation between the U.S. and China is unlikely to remain unchanged, and, at some point, the relationship will move toward improvement. China probably has enough sense to realize the risks involved in sticking to its overly assertive foreign policy. In addition, China has to tackle enormous domestic challenges such as population decline, economic slowdown, environmental issues, uneven distribution of wealth, and inadequate social security system.

On the other hand, China is accelerating its nuclear weapons development. Rationally speaking, when a "MAD equilibrium" emerges between the U.S. and China, and China frees itself from its security vulnerability, there is a possibility of a détente (easing of tension) between the U.S. and China. In such a case, the existence of a non-nuclear buffer zone in Northeast Asia would contribute to stabilizing the détente more solidly.

Looking at Japan's distant future in such a configuration, it is possible to envision the United States, China, Russia, and the Korean Peninsula welcoming Japan as a non-aligned nation with a limited non-nuclear "war deterrent" capability. This would be a more rational choice than Japan continuing out of inertia to take the U.S. nuclear umbrella for granted. The more independent Japan is from the U.S. and China, the more valuable such a buffer zone would be and the stronger diplomatic clout Japan would have in moving toward the ban on the use of nuclear weapons.

Don’t get me wrong. As a matter of practice, Japan could not switch overnight from the Japan-U.S. alliance to the policy of non-alignment. A sudden change in the alliance relationship would disturb regional stability and would be fraught with danger. It is important first for the Japanese people to accept such an idea as a long-term goal, and it will probably take decades for this to happen. For the time being, Japan should strive to strengthen its non-nuclear war deterrence capabilities, while appraising the regional balance and the degree to which Japan's unique identity is maintained. For the sake of stability in Northeast Asia, Japan should take the lead while keeping its ultimate diplomatic goals in mind and avoiding making bad decisions that are caught up in things that immediately faced us.

Masamichi Hanabusa is a former Japanese ambassador to Italy. This article appeared on the website https://mainichi.jp/premier/politics on January 15, 2023, and was based on an interview with Ambassador Hanabusa conducted by Megumi Nishikawa, Contributing Editor, Mainichi Shimbun, on the Epilogue “Toward an independent diplomacy and security policy” of Ambassador Hanabusa’s recently published memoirs in English “Seeking an Honoured Place in the World”(The Memoirs Club).
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

英 正道 / 元駐イタリア大使、日本英語交流連盟名誉会長

2023年 1月 31日



2013年に安倍内閣が閣議決定した日本最初の「国家安全保障戦略」は、自分の 国は自分で守ることを明確にし、現実的な防衛戦略の端緒を開いた。翌年の安全保障法制で特定の状況下で集団的な自衛権を行使できるようになった。北朝鮮が 繰り返すミサイル発射やロシアのウクライナ侵攻によって、人々の防衛意識も現実的な方向に変わりつつある。


日本が核武装すると信じていたキッシンジャー(ニクソン、フォード両政権の国務長官)は長年、米国は「中国は経済発展すれば穏健化する」と楽観的だった。そこには キッシンジャー氏の中国認識と、その裏腹の関係での対日観の影響が根強かった。彼は「日本は経済力が強大化するにつ れて軍事大国化し、いずれ独自行動をする。米国は中国と提携して危険な日本を 抑えることが米国の利益にかなう」と、日本人から見ると法外な、誤った考えを 抱いていた。

1980年代から90年代初めにかけて私がニューヨーク総領事だった時、ソニー 会長の盛田昭夫氏のご縁で、キッシンジャー氏を公邸の食事に招き、また何回かホテルで朝食をとりながら意見交換をした。彼は「日本は必ず核保有国になる」 と固く信じていた。私が「広島・長崎の体験がある日本人の核に対する感情は特別で、平和利用さえも反対が多い。核兵器を持つことは絶対にない」と言っても 譲らず、いつも議論は平行線だった。




もう一つは、外交交渉はフィフティー・フィフティーに近い解決が永続するのであって、独り勝ちはあり得ない。タイムリーに譲歩して良い循環を作り出すの が賢明な外交であり、棒をのんだように全く譲歩しない外交は外交ではない。日本は近隣4カ国(韓国、中国、ロシア、北朝鮮)との関係でこの傾向が顕著だ。これだけ近隣国との関係が正常化していない国は世界でも珍しいのではないか。







一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > It is not unrealistic to set a “Non-Nuclear-armed, Non-aligned” Japan as a goal.