Washington welcomes visits to its nuclear weapons facilities by Japan as a way to provide “firsthand knowledge” of the U.S. nuclear posture and reassurances of its nuclear deterrent, a former senior U.S. defense official says.
“The nuclear umbrella is a centerpiece of the U.S.-Japan security alliance,” Bradley Roberts, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, said in a written response to The Asahi Shimbun’s questions in early July.
“It is necessary and appropriate that the government of Japan have firsthand knowledge of the U.S. nuclear posture, including both policies and capabilities,” Roberts said.
Washington has allowed Japanese officials access to its confidential nuclear weapons facilities starting from last year.
Although nuclear weapons were not shown to the Japanese officials and access was limited to operational systems and delivery vehicles, the tours are a way for the United States to “confirm to its close ally its commitment to ensure an effective nuclear deterrent on its behalf,” Roberts said.
Roberts dismissed the view that some Americans are wary of Japan and South Korea possibly going nuclear.
“The United States does not provide a nuclear umbrella to its allies for the purpose of preventing them from choosing to have a nuclear deterrent of their own,” he said.
“China’s ongoing modernization of its nuclear forces presents different challenges,” he said. “The United States seeks increased nuclear transparency and restraint from China and a strategic military relationship with China that is stable and predictable. The United States also maintains a nuclear deterrent that is effective for any potential deterrence contingency.”
In explaining the significance of the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, Roberts said: “On the one hand, it sets out concrete steps to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons of the United States. … On the other hand, it ensures that so long as nuclear weapons remain, the U.S. nuclear deterrent will be safe, secure and effective. These are not contradictory goals; they are mutually reinforcing.”
Japan’s Defense Ministry has decided to move forward on discussions over whether the country should acquire pre-emptive strike capabilities against enemy bases as it works to put together a new National Defense Program Guidelines by the end of this year.
“When and if this becomes an official position of the Japanese government, there will be close consultations between Washington and Tokyo to assess this proposal in terms of its benefits, costs and potential risks,” Roberts said.
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The questions and answers follow:
Q: Please share your thoughts on President Barack Obama’s speech in Germany in June.
A: It provides renewed confirmation of his strong commitment to continue the process of nuclear arms reductions together with Russia and also to ensure that nuclear deterrence remains effective, including for the defense of U.S. allies.
Q: How do Obama’s disarmament goals affect nuclear deterrence for Japan?
A: Progress toward nuclear disarmament in Northeast Asia would make a positive impact on Japan’s security, if it were to bring denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and nuclear transparency and eventual reductions by China. As the United States works toward those goals, the United States will ensure that the nuclear umbrella remains strong and effective.
Q: The Nuclear Posture Review of April 2010 has been regarded as a middle ground between deterrence and disarmament. How would you respond to such an evaluation?
A: The NPR is balanced in its overall approach. On the one hand, it sets out concrete steps to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons of the United States, and to encourage other nuclear weapon states to do the same. On the other hand, it ensures that so long as nuclear weapons remain, the U.S. nuclear deterrent will be safe, secure and effective. These are not contradictory goals; they are mutually reinforcing. This balanced approach enjoys bipartisan support in the United States and strong political support from U.S. allies.
Q: What was the NPR’s underlying scheme for East Asia, including Japan?
A: The Obama administration is committed to strengthening extended deterrence and assurance of allies in all three regions where it offers security guarantees–East Asia, Europe and the Middle East. This involves a comprehensive approach to strengthening the regional deterrence architecture, including both nuclear and non-nuclear means, such as missile defense. At the same time, the United States pursues an active diplomacy with its allies to promote disarmament and nonproliferation objectives, including in East Asia efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and to persuade China to provide enhanced nuclear transparency and accept some future limits on its nuclear arsenal.
Q: Part of the U.S. argument for the necessity of a nuclear umbrella is to prevent Japan and South Korea from nuclear armament. How did this argument affect discussions about the NPR?
A: The United States does not provide a nuclear umbrella to its allies for the purpose of preventing them from choosing to have a nuclear deterrent of their own. It does so in order that they remain safe and secure, as part of its commitment to the defense, integrity and sovereignty.
Q: Please tell me the purpose and a brief overview of the ongoing extended deterrence dialogue between the United States and Japan from February 2010.
A: The bilateral dialogue has three main purposes. The first is to ensure the needed policy dialogue between two close allies on issues of extended deterrence and strategic stability. The second is to analyze together new challenges of deterrence in a changed and changing security environment. The third is to give the government of Japan firsthand experience of those nuclear deterrence capabilities that the United States provides as part of its commitment to the defense of Japan. The EDD meets regularly, rotating between the United States and Japan, and enjoys high-level political support in both capitals.
Q: The United States allowed Japan to tour a ballistic missile complex and a strategic nuclear submarine. I don’t believe the United States was obligated to offer such tours. Could you please elaborate on the reason why the United States opened the tour to non-nuclear countries like Japan?
A: The nuclear umbrella is a centerpiece of the U.S.-Japan security alliance. It is necessary and appropriate that the government of Japan have firsthand knowledge of the U.S. nuclear posture, including both policies and capabilities. The United States has welcomed these visits as a way to confirm to its close ally its commitment to ensure an effective nuclear deterrent on its behalf.
Q: I have heard that there is a “tabletop exercise” between the United States and Japan in which the two countries exchange views about advanced nuclear deterrence, advanced detection for enemy attacks, and a counterattack by missile defense and the like. What do you think is the purpose of this exercise?
A: In general, tabletop exercises are a useful tool for thinking through together the emerging challenges of extended deterrence in a changed and changing security environment. They provide insights into the kinds of information that political leaders might seek in crisis and into the kinds of directions they might give to military planners.
Q: Japan’s Defense Ministry, in anticipation of this year’s new basic defense program, has decided on a preemptive attack on enemy bases including ballistic missile launching bases. How does the United States evaluate this move?
A: When and if this becomes an official position of the Japanese government, there will be close consultations between Washington and Tokyo to assess this proposal in terms of its benefits, costs and potential risks.
Full article: Roberts: Japan shown U.S. military facilities to confirm ‘nuclear umbrella’ (The Asahi Shimbun)