That’s Admiral Cecil Haney, head of the U.S. Strategic Command, the man who would carry out a presidential order to launch a nuclear weapon.
Originally published May 25, 2016 at 11:31 pm Updated May 26, 2016 at 7:26 am
U.S. President Barack Obama, left, talks with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the Ujibashi bridge as they visit the Ise Jingu shrine in Ise, Mie prefecture, Japan Thursday, May 26, 2016 , ahead of the first session of the G-7 summit meetings. (Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP)
By FOSTER KLUG
The Associated Press
TOBA, Japan (AP) — There is the soaring rhetoric. And then there’s the messy reality.
When U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe make a historic visit to Hiroshima on Friday — the first time a sitting U.S. president has visited the site of the first atomic bomb attack — their words advocating nuclear disarmament will clash with real-world security necessities.
Far from backing up the vision of a world without nuclear bombs that Obama laid out in a 2009 speech that helped secure a Nobel Peace Prize, his near-finished presidency has seen a multibillion-dollar modernization of the U.S. nuclear force.
Japan’s long postwar commitment to disarmament, meanwhile, is only possible because of its reliance on the so-called American “nuclear umbrella” that protects it from antagonistic North Korea and China. Tokyo, should it choose, could probably easily convert its advanced civilian nuclear program into a weapons program, and some conservatives in Abe’s ruling party have argued that the country’s pacifist constitution technically allows nuclear weapons.
In advance of flying to Hiroshima, Obama said Thursday that the dropping of the atomic bomb was an inflection point in modern history and something everybody must deal with.
“I do think that part of the reason I’m going is because I want to once again underscore the very real risks that are out there, and the sense of urgency that we all should have,” Obama told reporters in Shima, Japan, after meeting with leaders of major advanced economies. “It’s not only a reminder of the terrible toll of World War II and the death of innocents across continents, but it’s also to remind ourselves that the job’s not done.”
Despite his own mixed record on nukes, Obama likely sees his Hiroshima visit as a worthwhile expenditure of political capital in order to shore up a global nonproliferation effort that seems at times to be crumbling.
Before the most recent of a series of nuclear security summits meant to reduce and protect nuclear material, Obama wrote in March that eliminating all nuclear weapons may not happen in his lifetime. “But we have begun. As the only nation ever to use nuclear weapons, the United States has a moral obligation to continue to lead the way in eliminating them. Still, no one nation can realize this vision alone. It must be the work of the world.”
Obama’s vision of a world without nuclear weapons was challenged almost immediately.
His April 2009 speech in Prague happened within hours of North Korea’s launch of a long-range rocket that outsiders, including the United Nations, called a cover for a test of banned missile technology. Pyongyang is still barreling ahead in its push for nuclear-armed missiles that could reach the U.S. mainland.
Obama secured a deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program, if it can be implemented amid mistrust on both sides. But Pakistan and India are still locked in a nuclear standoff. The United States and Russia, which have most of the world’s nuclear weapons, often see their geopolitical jockeying for position interfere with disarmament efforts. And there are growing worries about the security of nuclear fuel sites around the world.
Obama’s trip to Hiroshima also comes amid anxiety that North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile capabilities could lead to the top U.S. allies in Asia, Japan and South Korea, starting their own nuclear weapons programs.
It is highly unlikely either country will go nuclear. It could cause huge political and economic damage — crippling sanctions, global condemnation — and jeopardize their alliances with the United States.
But a small group in South Korea, including some conservative members of the ruling party, and some in Japan see the North Korean danger as too grave to rely only on the protection of another country. They also question whether, despite rhetoric from U.S. officials about an “ironclad” alliance, Washington would really use nuclear weapons and risk the lives of thousands of American troops should a belligerent North Korea attack.
The Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s top newspaper by circulation, said in an editorial weeks after North Korea’s nuclear test in January that discussions in Seoul on acquiring nuclear weapons were inevitable.
Judging by the level of American involvement in crises in Ukraine and Syria, for example, the newspaper said any U.S. help would come only after Seoul is turned into a “pile of ashes” by a North Korean nuclear attack.
This fear has been highlighted by Donald Trump, the presumptive presidential nominee for the Republican party in the United States. He has questioned the amount of money the U.S. military is forced to spend to protect its allies, and has suggested that Japan and South Korea should be allowed to develop their own nuclear weapons.
Japan prides itself on its pacifism and disarmament, but it is only through U.S. nuclear deterrence that the country can live alongside nuclear-armed North Korea, China and Russia, without going nuclear itself.
“Some say this is hypocritical,” said Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum CSIS think tank, “but I think it is just common sense and good national security policy. The Japanese would certainly be happier if no one had nuclear weapons, but as long as several of its neighbors have them, they welcome being under America’s nuclear umbrella.”
Yukio Okamoto, a former Japanese diplomat, said Tokyo “is in the most difficult position” because it is a nuclear bomb victim, surrounded by potentially hostile nuclear-armed states and dependent for its survival on U.S. nuclear deterrence.
“We have to walk through a very narrow passage of trying our sincere efforts toward total elimination in the long term, but at the same time trying to preserve the alliance with the United States and not to tarnish the security relationship, especially the nuclear deterrence,” Okamoto said.
Obama finds himself divided between his anti-nuclear vision and the realities of leading a global power.
Worries about Japan and South Korea producing nuclear weapons mean the United States must offer them nuclear protection, thereby “going against Obama’s own call for global denuclearization,” Charles Armstrong, an Asia expert at Columbia University, said. “At the same time, the U.S. is modernizing its own nuclear arsenal. Thus, U.S. actions and goals are not entirely consistent.”
Obama’s trip to Hiroshima will be filled with images of the horrors of nuclear war, and lofty statements about the need to eliminate those weapons. But some argue that for the visit to be successful, it must highlight Asia’s real nuclear dangers.
Michael Auslin, an analyst with the American Enterprise Institute think tank in Washington, told The Japan Times: “Asia is concerned about how Washington will deal with a more assertive China and a nuclear North Korea, not with an unrealistic aspiration to rid the world of nuclear weapons.”
Obama may not be able to escape criticism from all sides.
Many conservatives in the United States believe a Hiroshima visit will be a failure because it will be seen as an apology. Nonproliferation activists believe he has not gone far enough in efforts to “earn” his Nobel Prize.
“I did think Obama was serious about his nuclear-free world, but that was six or seven years ago. We are no closer today than we were when he took office to achieving that end,” said Bruce Cumings, an Asia expert at the University of Chicago. “I’m sure he will bring up getting rid of nukes in his speech, but he’s in a much weaker position today, because of the ongoing upgrading of American nuclear weapons.”
AP writer Ken Moritsugu contributed to this report from Tokyo.
William Lambers is the author of Nuclear Weapons and The Road to Peace. His writings have been published by History News Network, Huffington Post and Spectrum, the official magazine of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization.
History is being made this week with President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima. He is the only sitting U.S. president to make the trip to the site of the first atomic bombing on Japan during World War II.
Mary Popeo, of the nuclear disarmament group Global Zero, exclaims, “Having spent three summers in Hiroshima and Nagasaki working with the Japanese bomb victims and the Japanese peace movement, I can tell you that Obama’s trip is a huge deal!” The President should use this historic opportunity to build support for the global treaty ending nuclear weapons testing. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is the key to unlocking the door to a future without the crushing burden and fear of nuclear weapons. But the United States, Israel, China, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea have yet to ratify the treaty. So it has not taken effect worldwide. It just sits waiting for leadership to act. Most notably is the absence of the United States, the leading nuclear power.
Now Japan has acted. They have ratified the treaty and been outspoken in its support. Japan is taking a leadership role with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization, trying to get every nation to join. We should listen to them.
The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended World War II, a conflict which caused so much suffering for Americans, Japanese and many other peoples. Ever since we have lived with the risk that these weapons could be used again. Only they would be even more powerful. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, quotes a Hiroshima survivor: “the threat of nuclear weapons, created by the wisdom of mankind, is a serious issue of human survival that cannot be ignored even for a day.”
In 1946, the United States Strategic Bombing Survey studied the effects of the atomic bomb. Their report concluded: “No more forceful arguments for peace and for the international machinery of peace than the sight of the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have ever been devised. As the developer and exploiter of this ominous weapon, our nation has a responsibility, which no American should shirk, to lead in establishing and implementing the international guarantees and controls which will prevent its future use.”
During the Cold War nuclear weapons testing by both the United States and the Soviet Union proliferated, causing major international tension. President Dwight Eisenhower, in his second term, was influenced greatly by his science advisors that a ban on nuclear testing was possible and essential for national security. Eisenhower, in a 1961 interview with Walter Cronkite, said that not achieving a ban on nuclear testing would “have to be classed as the greatest disappointment of any administration — of any decade — of any time and of any party.” He thought it was vital to take the expensive burden of nukes off the backs of mankind. Ike’s efforts helped lead to a limited treaty signed by President Kennedy in 1963 banning nuke explosions in the atmosphere, underwater and outer space. It had the support of both Republicans and Democrats. In fact, Eisenhower administration members worked to help Kennedy achieve passage of the treaty in the Senate. But with underground tests allowed to continue the treaty was only a stepping stone. We have not yet taken that crucial next step.
The United States had a chance to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1999 when Bill Clinton was president. They could have slammed the door on nuclear testing for good. Former Eisenhower aide and leading national security advisor, General Andrew Goodpaster, wrote to the Senate urging them to vote in favor of the treaty. The CTBT was rejected by the Senate in late 1999 much to disappointment of the world.
The Republican Party, which had done so much to advance the cause of ending nuke testing, turned against it in that Senate vote. This was a major blow for nuclear arms control, disarmament and peace efforts. Today, the United States and Russia still have thousands of nukes each. And China, India, Pakistan and other nations are well armed with nukes. With no treaty in effect, nations could resume testing nukes at any time. This would cause a major arms race. The risk of nuclear terrorism or accidental launch make nuclear disarmament a very crucial goal for all nations.
Then there is the cost. Global Zero estimates that nations will spend a trillion dollars on nuclear weapons over the next decade. How can we justify pouring money into these weapons when there is so much hunger, disease, and poverty? These issues threaten stability more than anything. Look at the massive number of refugees around the world. We can’t ignore their plight. So all nations share a common interest in getting the burden of nukes off their backs. But reducing nuclear weapons is not something you achieve overnight. You have to build confidence in the process. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is a step that the United States can take now. The Republican led Senate could show leadership for peace and ratify the treaty. President Obama would sign it.
We have no need to test nuclear weapons because computer technology under the Stockpile Stewardship program monitors their safety and reliability. Vice President Joe Biden says “our labs know more about our arsenal today than when we used to explode our weapons on a regular basis.” The International Monitoring system of the treaty has detected all of North Korea’s nuclear tests. There are stations all over the globe, so it becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a nation to cheat.
Japan wants to work with the United States on ending nuclear testing and building a world with no nukes. The visit by President Obama to Hiroshima this week is a fantastic opportunity to invigorate this peace movement. Japan and the United States, once at war, can now walk together in peace. What more fitting than for the two nations to lead a global movement to eliminate nuclear weapons. The right place to start would be to end nuclear testing by ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
According to the White House, the United States does not owe Japan a formal apology for using the atomic bomb in August 1945. But officials say the visit will serve as a reminder the terrible destruction that nuclear weapons can inflict.
“He will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II,” Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, wrote on Medium Tuesday. “Instead, he will offer a forward-looking vision focused on our shared future.”
Rhodes said Obama would deliver remarks on nuclear non-proliferation – a central tenet of the President’s foreign policy – during the stop in Hiroshima, which is scheduled for May 27.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would accompany Obama on the stop, which comes after a meeting of the Group of 7 in Ise-Shima.
Earlier this year, Secretary of State John Kerry became the highest-ranking US official to pay respects at the site, and hinted that Obama would soon make his own visit.
Obama and his aides have long debated making a presidential stop in either Hiroshima or Nagasaki, where the US dropped a second atomic bomb three days after the Hiroshima attack.
On his first visit to Japan in 2009, Obama expressed a desire to stop in one of the cities before leaving office. “The memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are etched in the minds of the world, and I would be honored to have the opportunity to visit those cities at some point during my presidency,” he said.
But even in Tokyo, a visit by a US president to the site of the nuclear destruction hasn’t always been welcome. Ahead of Obama’s first trip to Japan in 2009, a Japanese government official said “it would be premature to include a visit to Hiroshima,” recommending instead that Obama remain near the capital.
But as the United States and Japan have worked through other World War II-era grievances, a visit to the location became more tenable.
The first US secretary of state to visit Hiroshima, Kerry said President Barack Obama also wanted to travel to the city in southern Japan but he did not know whether the leader’s complex schedule would allow him to do so when he visits the country for a Group of Seven (G7) summit in May.
Kerry toured the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Museum, whose haunting displays include photographs of badly burned victims, the tattered and stained clothes they wore and statues depicting them with flesh melting from their limbs.
“It is a stunning display. It is a gut-wrenching display,” he said. “It is a reminder of the depth of the obligation everyone of us in public life carries…to create and pursue a world free from nuclear weapons,” he told a news conference.
After the tour by Kerry and his fellow G7 foreign ministers, the group issued a statement reaffirming their commitment to building a world without nuclear arms but said the push had been made more complex by North Korea’s repeated “provocations” and by worsening security in Syria and Ukraine.
The ministers from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States laid white wreaths at a cenotaph to the victims of the August 6, 1945, bombing, which reduced the city to ashes and killed some 140,000 people by the end of that year.
While he is not the highest-ranking US official to have toured the museum and memorial park, a distinction that belongs to then-US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi in 2008, Kerry is the most senior executive branch official to visit.
“Everyone in the world should see and feel the power of this memorial. It is a stark, harsh, compelling reminder not only of our obligation to end the threat of nuclear weapons, but to rededicate all our effort to avoid war itself,” the chief US diplomat wrote in a guest book.
Asked later if this meant Obama should come, Kerry said: “Everyone means everyone. So I hope one day the president of the United States will be among the everyone who is able to come here. Whether or not he can come as president, I don’t know.”
At Kerry’s suggestion, the ministers also made an impromptu visit to the Atomic Bomb Dome, the skeletal remains of the only structure left standing near the hypocentre of the bomb explosion and now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Three days after a US warplane dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, another atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, on August 9, 1945. Japan surrendered six days later.
A visit by Obama could be controversial in America if it were viewed as an apology.
Hopes for Obama’s visit to Hiroshima were raised after an April 2009 speech in Prague when he called for a world without nuclear weapons.
He later said that he would be honoured to visit the two nuclear-attacked cities.
The G7 foreign ministers’ trip to the museum and memorial is part of Japan’s effort to send a strong nuclear disarmament message from Hiroshima, the world’s first city to suffer atomic bombing.
“I think this first-ever visit by G7 foreign ministers to the peace memorial park is a historic first step towards reviving momentum toward a world without nuclear weapons,” Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said in a statement.
He later told a news conference that it was “inconceivable” that Japan would ever decide to have nuclear weapons.
Last month, US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Japan and South Korea should build such weapons to deter enemies.
In a separate, detailed statement, the G7 ministers singled out North Korea for sharp criticism, condemning its recent nuclear test and launches using ballistic missile technology.
And in a statement on maritime security, they voiced their strong opposition to provocative attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas, an apparent reference to China, which is locked in territorial disputes with other nations including the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan.
Kerry plans no apology for wartime atomic bomb on Hiroshima visit
By Arshad Mohammed and Kiyoshi Takenaka
HIROSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) – John Kerry will not offer an apology for the United States’ use of the atomic bomb against Japan when he becomes the first U.S. secretary of state to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum on Monday, a senior U.S. official said.
Kerry is visiting the city, which was obliterated by a U.S. atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945, to attend gathering of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies that Japan opened on Sunday with a call to end nuclear weapons.
The U.S. diplomat is to join his counterparts from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan on Monday to tour the city’s atomic bomb museum and to lay flowers at a cenotaph for its victims, becoming the first in his post to do so.
“If you are asking whether the secretary of state came to Hiroshima to apologise, the answer is no,” a senior U.S. official told reporters late on Sunday.
“If you are asking whether the secretary and I think all Americans and all Japanese are filled with sorrow at the tragedies that befell so many of our countrymen, the answer is yes,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added.
Kerry’s trip could pave the way for an unprecedented visit to Hiroshima by a sitting U.S. president when Barack Obama attends the annual G7 summit to be held in Japan next month.
While saying the White House has yet to make a decision, the senior U.S. official said Obama has shown he is willing to do controversial things such as visiting Havana last month.
The official suggested there was no “great or insurmountable angst about the optics or the politics of a visit to Hiroshima.”
He also said there was no Japanese effort to seek a U.S. apology, “nor is there any interest in reopening the question of blame for the sequence of events that culminated in the use of the atomic bomb.”
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who presides over the two-day meeting, on Sunday said ministers will discuss anti-terrorism steps, maritime security and issues related to North Korea, Ukraine and the Middle East.