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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 42, December 1999

Allegations of Clandestine US Nuclear Weapons in Japan

In the last issue, the News Review reported allegations concerning the basing of US nuclear weapons during the Cold War, contained in an article by William Arkin, William Burr and Robert Norris in the November/December issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. In mid-December, it was reported in The New York Times that the January/February issue of the Bulletin would feature further disclosures by the same authors about US nuclear weapons secretly stored in Japan. Following a denial by US authorities that nuclear weapons had been stored in Iceland, as claimed in the November/December Bulletin paper, the authors deduced that the location beginning with the letter "I" blacked out in a Pentagon document was the Japanese island of Iwo Jima. They further concluded that another blacked out entry, beginning with the letter "C", was the Japanese island of Chici Jima.

The text of the article is available in full at http://www.bullatomsci.org/issues/2000/jf00/jf00norrisarkin.html and includes the following extract:

"Fabled as a 'non-nuclear nation,' Japan is beginning to look very different…There were nuclear weapons on [the two islands identified]…, an enormous and varied nuclear arsenal on Okinawa, nuclear bombs (sans their fissile cores) stored on the mainland…and nuclear-armed US Navy ships stationed in Sasebo and Yokosuka. … Nuclear war planners never obtained the right to store complete nuclear weapons in the main islands. … Japan nevertheless hosted an extensive nuclear infrastructure - at its peak, as large as that of other American allies.

It is true that Chici Jimo, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa were under US occupation, that the bombs stored on the mainland lacked their plutonium and/or uranium cores, and that the nuclear-armed ships were a legal inch away from Japanese soil. All in all, this elaborate stratagem maintained the technicality that the United States had no nuclear weapons 'in Japan.'"

On December 12, US Undersecretary for Defense Policy Walter Slocombe told The New York Times: "Our position is that there have been no violations of our obligations under the security treaty and related arrangements." The next day, State Department spokesperson James Foley added: "[T]he United States is aware, and has always been aware, of the special sensitivities of the Japanese people regarding nuclear weapons. We have faithfully maintained our responsibilities and obligations under the US-Japan security treaty."

Reports: Japan had more US nukes than thought, Associated Press, December 11; US violated nuclear arms pledge in Japan, records show, New York Times, December 12; US insists it stuck by nuclear obligations to Japan, Agence France-Presse, December 13.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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