The Japanese Constitution and Nukes

  1. Does the Japanese Constitution prevent the US from staging nuclear weapons in Japan? Can a US nuclear sub be stationed in a Japanese port? I believe their constitution prevents Japan itself from possessing nuclear weapons.

  2. Does the US have nuclear weapons staged in Japan, or do we rely on subs and missiles that could be launched from outside of Japan?

  3. Does the US have a defense treaty with Japan that would require us to defend them should they be attacked by China or North Korea?

1a. No, the constitution isn’t a problem. In the mid-50’s the US and Japanese governments were in discussions over allowing nuclear weapons on US bases in Japan until Japanese public protests killed the idea.

1b. The “Three Non-Nuclear Principles” outlined by Sato in 1967 (and later made law) prohibit the introduction of nuclear weapons into Japanese territory. In practice there’s been a bit of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in place. US vessels equipped with nuclear weapons have certainly been docked in Japan. The Japanese don’t ask if any of our ships have nukes, and we don’t tell them. Sato’s reputation took a bit of a beating recently when it was found out that he secretly agreed to the US introduction of nuclear weapons into Okinawa during the US military administration there. The Japanese constitution doesn’t place any kind of special restriction on nuclear weapons beyond what it places on all military equipment.

  1. Yes. Article V states that “Each Party recognizes that an armed attack against either Party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional provisions and processes.”
  1. The US does not maintain any nuclear weapons in Japan. The only countries with US nukes outside of the US are Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey, and the UK. All of these are aircraft delivered bombs, no missiles.

There’s occasional debate that this violates the spirit of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty since with the exception of the UK none of those countries are supposed to have nukes. Technically the nuclear weapons are always in US control on leased airbases, however the air forces of each of those countries have trained in delivery and there are procedures in place for them to do so.

  1. The Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security is still in effect, requiring the US to aid Japan in the event of an attack.
  1. Article V of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between Japan and the U.S.A. contains the following sentence:

As a point of comparison, it’s not quite as strongly worded as, say, Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty (the founding document of NATO):

True, but just to be clear (not that you necessarily suggested otherwise), both governments have stated that the treaty creates an obligation.

For example, when the Senkaku dispute heated up a couple years ago, Sec. Clinton stated that “with respect to the Senkaku Islands, the United States has never taken a position on sovereignty, but we have made it very clear that the islands are part of our mutual treaty obligations, and the obligation to defend Japan”.

Fair point. In any event, the languages of the two treaties are very similar. Technically, neither treaty requires one party to respond militarily to an attack on another signatory; but in practical terms, the circumstances in which an attack wouldn’t lead to a military response are hard to imagine.

I think the major concern for Japan would be nuclear weapons on board US Navy ships. The US Navy uses Japanese ports for stops frequently, and there are also many ships based at Yakosuka, Japan, including the USS George Washington (CVN-73) and her battle group.

I honestly don’t know whether there may or may not be nuclear weapons as a part of that battlegroup - the Navy doesn’t like to confirm or deny that sort of thing.

“The US does not maintain any nuclear weapons in Japan. The only countries with US nukes outside of the US are Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey, and the UK. All of these are aircraft delivered bombs, no missiles.”

So there are really no tactical nukes in South Korea? That really surprises me since it would take some time to deploy nukes should the North decide to storm the border. Perhaps South Korea feels they could defeat the North with conventional weapons.

They could still have submarines in international waters within range of North Korea. The front lines are close enough to a major city of our ally that they might not want to use nukes in Korea, though.

The USS Kittyhawk (decommissioned on May 12, 2009), was the last non-nuclear aircraft carrier. From 1998-2008, she was based at Yokosuka, Japan. I read at the time that it was because of the Japanese sensitivity about nukes.

Yes, there were a lot of protests when it was announced that the George Washington was going to replace it, worried that something was going to go wrong with its reactor and irradiate Tokyo.

Ironically, the ship later played a major role in the US response to the 3.11 disaster.

Based on anecdotal evidence from family members, who served in the US military in Japan (in the late 1970’s-1980’s), this is not true.

Or it’s true only because of a nitpick.

US nuclear weapons in Japan or Japanese waters were ‘disassembled’, so then they were technically not weapons, just components of weapons. The disassembly was minor, just removal of a critical part or two; something that could be reassembled into a working weapon in just a few minutes. But at that moment, they were not nuclear weapons.

What the US considered “tactical nuclear weapons” were retired in the early 90s. These consisted of artillery shells (8" and 155mm), Lance and Pershing (I and II) missile warheads, and some obsolete system warheads. Everything now is “strategic”. The tactical stuff could have been launched from a much lower level of command. With the end of the USSR, the deletion of the tactical variety was considered a safety move. No more waves of Soviet tanks coming thru the Fulda Gap.

As mentioned, there are nuke armed subs, surface ships, and aircraft available to take care of NK incursions if the situation [del]warrants[/del] [del]warrents[/del] calls for them.

If tactical nuclear weapons have been retired then it’s pretty unlikely there would be any nuclear weapons in a carrier group isn’t it? A carrier groups subs are to protect the carrier, they are not ballistic missile subs.

So the George Washington (probably) doesn’t have Nukes onboard or as part of its group?

The countries I listed come from a 2007 Air Force document about foreign installations scheduled to receive periodic nuclear weapons inspections. Officially the US doesn’t claim to have any other foreign stockpiles of nuclear weapons. Weapons that are considered “deployed” aren’t counted, which typically will include any naval weapons such as those on a SSBN or carried by a surface ship. Those “disassembled” weapons would not be considered to be maintained in Japan even if the ship they were on sat in Japanese territorial waters for much of it’s service.

I’d be surprised if there were any hidden stockpiles being maintained given the recent emphasis on ICBMs and SLBMs.

TLAM-Ns, the nuclear equipped Tomahawk missiles, might be carried. In 2010 (warning PDF) the plan was to start retiring the TLAM-N. So Washington and her group may not be capable of carrying out a nuclear strike depending on how far along they are in the retirement schedule. Like wevets noted the Navy doesn’t really like to talk about it much.

The nukes aboard an attack sub would be torpedoes or cruise missiles. What were considered tactical warheads were the US Army nukes.

Nuclear Torpedoes were retired long ago, and the TLAM/N nuclear tomahawk is also being phased out in 2013. It looks to me like its pretty unlikely that a carrier group routinely carries nuclear weapons anymore.

I had no clue. I was totally certain that only US personnel could use US nuclear weapons.