Japan using ruse of atomic bomb victim to realize nuclear goal

Visitors view an exhibition at the Memorial Hall of the War of Chinese People's Resistance Against Japanese Aggression in Beijing on Monday, marking the 77th anniversary of Japan's unconditional surrender to Allied Forces in World War II. (WEI XIAOHAO / CHINA DAILY)

A slew of statements and documents put forward by Japan recently have brought the country's hypocritical policy on nuclear weapons into sharp focus. And given Japan's efforts to downplay its militarist past and instead highlight the fact that it is the only victim of a nuclear attack-Hiroshima on Aug 6 and in Nagasaki on Aug 9 in 1945-the international community should more closely scrutinize its nuclear program.

On Aug 9, on the 77th anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reiterated Japan's commitment to the "Three Non-Nuclear Principles" of non-possession, non-production and non-introduction of nuclear weapons, which the Japanese parliament adopted through a resolution in 1971. Japan has also agreed to comply with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

However, there was no mention of the commitment to the three principles in the document Japan submitted to the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City during August 1-26. The NPT review conference, which usually runs for all of August, has been held every five years since the NPT came into effect in 1970, with the first being held in 1975 and the 10th deferred in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Li Song, China's ambassador on disarmament affairs, questioned Tokyo's position in a speech he delivered at the conference on Aug 8. Li asked whether the absence of Japan's commitment to the three principles in the official document means a major shift in the country's nuclear non-proliferation policy.

Asserting that Japan make clear its stance on nuclear non-proliferation, Li warned that any attempt to share nuclear weapons in the Asia-Pacific region would be an act of "nuclear proliferation", which will face "staunch objection" and if necessary, "stern countermeasure" from regional countries.

Also on Aug 8, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that Japan has been sitting comfortably under the US' "nuclear umbrella", emphasizing that China opposes the US' relinquishing its policy on no first use of nuclear weapons.

Japanese politicians, including former prime minister Shinzo Abe, have for years been saying the deployment of US nuclear weapons in Japan should not be a taboo topic. But many Japanese people are opposed to Japan having a nuclear weapon-sharing agreement with any country.

Japanese newspaper Kyoto Shimbun said in an editorial on Aug 6 that those ruling Liberal Democratic Party members supporting nuclear-sharing "are short-sighted".

Japan is not a NATO member, nor is it a nuclear-weapon state. So if it strikes a nuclear weapon-sharing deal with another country, it will deal a huge blow to the strategic stability in East Asia and beyond.

The duplicitous nuclear policy of the Japanese government reminds us how vacuous is its claim of building "a world free of nuclear weapons", a pledge Kishida repeated in his Aug 9 speech.

That the US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 was an unprecedented tragedy. But the US did so because fascist Japan refused to surrender in World War II.

Japanese leaders have not apologized for their country's militarist past when the Imperial Japanese Army killed tens of millions of people and plundered countries across East and Southeast Asia. As such, Japan only exposes its double standard when it claims to be the sole victim of nuclear attacks while downplaying the atrocities the Japanese committed in other Asian countries before and during World War II.

In recent years, Washington, too, has downplayed the historical context of the anti-fascist World War II when talking about Japan. "The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, forever ingrained in the world's memory, serve as stark reminders that the 76-year record of non-use of nuclear weapons must be maintained," said a US-Japan joint statement over the NPT issued on Jan 20.

But instead of making clear why the two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, the two countries called "on political leaders, youth, and others to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki to raise and sustain awareness".

Yet to sustain awareness, Japan's wartime past should be highlighted. Adopting double standard on issues such as nuclear weapons is actually playing with fire. The US has turned a blind eye to Japan's dark past by calling for nuclear weapon-sharing because it is hell-bent on manipulating the situation to fulfill its military domination goal.

But in the eyes of neighbors such as China, Japan's nuclear ambition is an affront to the countries that suffered atrocities at the hands of Japan before and during World War II. And given Japan's militarist past, they strongly oppose the country's nuclear ambitions.

The author is a writer with China Daily.