- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 10, 2010

TOKYO | Japan confirmed Tuesday secret Cold War-era pacts with Washington that tacitly allowed nuclear warships in Japanese ports in violation of a hallowed postwar principle, effectively acknowledging that previous governments had lied about them for decades.

While the move was welcomed as a step toward greater government transparency, atomic bomb survivors expressed disgust that officials kept such agreements hidden for dozens of years.

The revelations came after an investigation by a panel of experts appointed by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s government, which swept to power last fall on promises to bring more openness to government. His left-leaning party defeated the long-ruling conservatives who repeatedly denied the existence of such agreements.

The findings themselves aren’t much of a shock because declassified U.S. documents have already confirmed such 1960s agreements, and a few former Japanese bureaucrats have spoken out about them in recent years.

But in a nation where memories of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II drive a fierce aversion to nuclear weapons, Tokyo’s admission about the secret agreements is a stunning reversal after years of denials from government authorities.

Sunao Tsuboi, who survived the Hiroshima bombing on Aug. 6, 1945, was outraged by the findings, saying they reflected the government’s past hypocrisy.

“While stressing that Japan is the only country attacked by atomic attacks, the government was secretly allowing nuclear weapons inside the country,” said Mr. Tsuboi, a co-chairman of a nationwide organization for atomic bomb survivors.

Even after American officials acknowledged the pacts in the 1990s, leaders of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party persistently denied them, up to and including Taro Aso, the last LDP prime minister before Mr. Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan took over.

The six-member panel of academics examined more than 4,000 files and documents surrounding four pacts, and confirmed three existed.

Most controversial was the finding that past governments had given tacit permission to U.S. nuclear-armed warships to make calls at Japanese ports — a violation of Japan’s so-called three non-nuclear principles not to make, own or allow the entry of atomic weapons.

The panel, led by University of Tokyo professor Shinichi Kitaoka, said that while documents showed that Washington and Tokyo appeared to have differing interpretations about allowing nuclear-armed ships into Japanese waters, it was likely that Tokyo and Washington shared an unspoken understanding permitting them to make port calls in Japan without consent.

The panel also acknowledged that Tokyo and Washington had secret agreements allowing the U.S. to use military bases in Japan without prior consent in case of emergency on the Korean Peninsula during the Korean War.

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada told reporters the findings shouldn’t have any impact on Tokyo’s ties with Washington, which are currently strained over a dispute about the relocation of a Marine base on the southern island of Okinawa.

Under a security alliance with the U.S., some 47,000 American troops are stationed in Japan, and the U.S. protects the country under its nuclear umbrella.

The investigation, Mr. Okada said, was meant to restore public trust in Japan’s diplomacy and government policies.

“It’s regrettable that such facts were not disclosed to the public for such a long time, even after the end of the Cold War era,” he said.

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