Japanese Government Rejects TLAM/N Claim

Katsuya Okada and Hillary Clinton met in September 2009.

By Hans M. Kristensen

The Japanese government has officially rejected claims made by some that Japan is opposed to the United States retiring the nuclear Tomahawk Land-Attack Missile (TLAM/N).

The final report of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States from May 2009 emphasized the importance of maintaining the TLAM/N for extended deterrence in Asia by referring to private conversations with specifically “one particularly important ally” (read: Japan) that “would be very concerned by TLAM/N retirement.”

In a letter sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on December 24, 2009, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada explicitly says that the Japanese government has expressed no such views.

The Japanese Foreign Minister’s letter explicitly refers to the Commission: “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).

I don’t know who made a reference to RNEP (the Commission didn’t; perhaps it was a reference to earth-penetration capabilities in general rather than RNEP per ce), but Okada’s rejection of the TLAM/N claim is clear:

“[A]lthough 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.” (my emphasis)

Okada’s statement suggests that he has checked the government’s files. It also matches the statement made by Admiral Timothy J. Keating, the former Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, in July 2009, that he was “unaware of specific Japanese interests in the” TLAM/N.

If the TLAM/N were retired, Okada says, Japan would of course like to be informed about how this would affect extended deterrence and how it could be supplemented. I hope “supplemented” means by other existing nuclear and non-nuclear means, not by new nuclear weapon system.

It seem so, because Okada writes that he favors nuclear disarmament, and he also expresses interest in the proposal made recently by the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Disarmament (ICNND) – and many others – that the role of nuclear weapons be restricted to deterrence of the use of nuclear weapons. That is important for the Japanese government to say because one of the current missions for U.S. nuclear weapons involve North Korean chemical and biological attacks on Japan. Apparently, closer consultations between the United States and Japan on extended deterrence issues would be a good idea.

It seems more and more that the TLAM/N claim resulted from a shady collusion between a few U.S. and Japanese officials (some current and some former) who sought to present private views as more than that in an effort to put brakes on the Obama administration’s disarmament agenda.

Hopefully the pending Nuclear Posture Review will not be led astray.

This publication was made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

One thought on “Japanese Government Rejects TLAM/N Claim

  1. Do you think that this announcement from the Japanese government disproves the argument that Japan would be against a US decision to end participation in dual-capable aircraft because of extended deterrence concerns?

    Reply: Japan has to my knowledge not commented on the issue of dual-capable aircraft. Unlike in Europe, there are no dual-capable aircraft (a term that normally refers to tactical F-16 and F-15 aircraft) deployed with nuclear weapons in the Pacific. They were withdrawn back in 1991 with no negative effects on Japan or South Korea. The claim made by the Congressional Posture Commission and others was that Japanese officials expressed concerns about retirement of TLAM/N and presented some general views about capabilities that they thought were important. Other than a general view that nuclear weapons are part of the American security guarantee, I don’t think the Japanese government has many specific views about what the nuclear component of the “nuclear umbrella” should look like, just that it would like some to be in place and be consulted about it from time to time. HK

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