Jeffrey LewisJapan Hates TLAM-N

Well, well, well.

Japanese Foreign Minister Okada sent a letter, dated December 24, the explicitly denies Japan wants the United States to retain the archaic Nuclear Tomahawk. (Regular readers know that I find the Nuclear Tomahawk to be largely irrelevant to extended deterrence and useless and therefore not credible.)

Okada’s letter is in Japanese, but Philip White at the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center — which, along with UCS, has done more to bring this issue to light in Japan than any other group — made an unofficial translation (full text in the comments).

Here is the relevant passage regarding TLAM-N:

It was reported in some sections of the Japanese media that, during the production of the report of the “Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States” released in May this year, Japanese officials of the responsible diplomatic section lobbied your government not to reduce the number of its nuclear weapons, or, more specifically, opposed the retirement of the United States’ Tomahawk Land Attack Missile – Nuclear (TLAM/N) and requested that the United States maintain a Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP).

However, the Japanese Government is not in a position to judge whether it is necessary or desirable for your government to possess particular [weapons] systems. Hence, although the discussions were held under the previous Cabinet, it is my understanding that, in the course of exchanges between our countries, including the deliberations of the above mentioned Commission, the Japanese Government has expressed no view concerning whether or not your government should possess particular [weapons] systems such as TLAM/N and RNEP. If, hypothetically, such a view was expressed, it would clearly be at variance with my views, which are in favor of nuclear disarmament.

Nevertheless, if TLAM/N is retired, we hope to receive ongoing explanations of your government’s extended deterrence policy, including any impact this might have on extended deterrence for Japan and how this could be supplemented.

“Some sections of the Japanese media” almost certainly refers to Masa Ota’s excellent story, Japan lobbied for robust nuclear umbrella before power shift, in Kyodo News (November 24, 2009). Ota reported that senior Japanese diplomats told the Commission that the United States should retain the TLAM-N and develop low-yield nuclear options.

Although Okada seems to deny that Japan lobbied the Commission, it looks to be the classic non-denial denial. (It would be helpful to parse the original Japanese, but Okada admits to the exchanges, which in any event are listed at the back of the Posture Commission Report, denying only the expression of a “view concerning whether or not [the US] should possess particular [weapons] systems.”)

In any event, everyone in Washington knows that Mr. Akiba and Mr. Kanai expressed precisely such a view, even if it would be inconvenient, not to mention career-ending, for them to admit it now. (The documents will come out, sooner or later, however.)

It is hard to imagine, at this point, that the Pentagon will insist on over-ruling the Navy and keeping the TLAM-N now that FM Okada has pulled the rug out from under those arguing that “extended deterrence relies heavily on the deployment of nuclear cruise missiles on some Los Angeles class attack submarines.”

Comments

  1. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    Hillary Rodham Clinton

    United States Secretary of State

    Allow me to convey my basic views regarding the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) currently being conducted by the United States.

    It goes without saying that the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty forms the basis of Japan’s security. The Japanese government is well aware of the fact that Japan is dependent on the US extended deterrent, including the nuclear deterrent. Furthermore, it is necessary that trust in this deterrence be backed up by sufficient capability.

    On the other hand, the Japanese government lauds the fact that President Obama called for a “world without nuclear weapons” and that your government is taking the lead in global nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear abolition. Together with the United States, the Japanese Government also wishes to strive for the realization of this noble goal.

    Hence, while the Japanese Government places trust and importance on your government’s extended deterrence, this does not mean that the Japanese Government demands a policy of your government which conflicts with the goal of a “world without nuclear weapons”.

    It was reported in some sections of the Japanese media that, during the production of the report of the “Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States” released in May this year, Japanese officials of the responsible diplomatic section lobbied your government not to reduce the number of its nuclear weapons, or, more specifically, opposed the retirement of the United States’ Tomahawk Land Attack Missile – Nuclear (TLAM/N) and requested that the United States maintain a Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP).

    However, the Japanese Government is not in a position to judge whether it is necessary or desirable for your government to possess particular [weapons] systems. Hence, although the discussions were held under the previous Cabinet, it is my understanding that, in the course of exchanges between our countries, including the deliberations of the above mentioned Commission, the Japanese Government has expressed no view concerning whether or not your government should possess particular [weapons] systems such as TLAM/N and RNEP. If, hypothetically, such a view was expressed, it would clearly be at variance with my views, which are in favor of nuclear disarmament.

    Nevertheless, if TLAM/N is retired, we hope to receive ongoing explanations of your government’s extended deterrence policy, including any impact this might have on extended deterrence for Japan and how this could be supplemented.

    Incidentally, I believe that you are already aware that, the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Disarmament (ICNND), which was established as a joint Japan-Australia initiative, released its report on December 15. As a measure to be adopted by all nuclear weapon states, the report contains suggestions that the role of nuclear weapons be restricted to deterrence of the use of nuclear weapons and that the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon state members of the NPT be banned. I am very interested in these suggestions as first steps towards a “world without nuclear weapons”. While it may not be possible to realize these immediately, I would like to have further discussion between our two governments on the possibility of adopting such measures in present or future policy.

    Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs
    December 24, 2009

  2. wakeymugs@gmail.com (History)

    It is indeed amusing to note that while the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs clarifies that “the Japanese Government places trust and importance on your (US) government’s extended deterrence”, Japanese diplomatic efforts to reverse India’s own efforts to ensure its own strategic abilities to ‘deter’ possible nuclear aggression.

  3. Lurking Observer (History)

    But when you consider the broader context of US-Japanese relations, especially in the wake of the DPJ victory and the subsequent turmoil on defense ties, it is not at all clear that DOD will ignore the USN’s position.

    By that logic, the DOD should also ignore the negotiations undertaken by DOD, USMC, and the State Department on the issue of Futenma base, especially now that Nogo has elected a “no go” mayor. That is not the position that is, in fact, being taken, for the simple reason that you don’t overturn agreements that have been hammered out lightly.

    The DPJ has essentially been trying to rewrite many of the agreements made between the GOJ and the US Government on defense issues, to fit a very different view of both US-Japan defense relations and Japanese defense and security policy requirements. It remains to be seen how well it will be able to actually effect these policies.

  4. anon (History)

    Is it possible that the the lobbying may have subtle or ambiguous enough for some on the SPC to hear “Keep the TLAMs!!!” while others may have (rightly?) heard “consult with us if you decide to retire the TLAMs.” I suspect the comments were subtle, and the Commssioners heard what they wanted to hear, given their pre-existing dispositions. It may be helpful, and expiditious, for the NPR to hear “consult with us if you plan to retire the TLAMs.”

  5. MTC (History)

    Dr. Lewis –

    Please see my explanation of the possible errors in the translation posted above and my own version of what the Japanese original says at: http://shisaku.blogspot.com/2010/01/tentative-notes-upon-hatoyama.html

  6. Scott Monje (History)

    Lurking Observer

    I’m not sure I’m following you. The Navy’s position is to retire the TLAM/N. According to an NDU study: “In 1994, the United States announced the decision to permanently give up the deployment of nuclear weapons on carriers or surface ships. While that decision retained the capability to redeploy TLAM–N on attack submarines, there have been budget debates almost every year over the TLAM–N. The Navy has sought to retire the missile because maintaining the capability requires special training for submarine crews and certification of some boats.
    That represents an allocation of people, time, and money that the Service would prefer to forego. Thus, the TLAM–N system has not been updated for years, and may soon atrophy regardless of the budgetary controversy.” http://www.ndu.edu/inss/docUploaded/c_GSA2009_Sec%20III.pdf (p. 372)

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