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Why the NATO Nuclear Debate Is Relevant to Japan and Vice Versa

Why the NATO Nuclear Debate Is Relevant to Japan and Vice Versa

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In this policy brief, the author explains that the debate within the NATO alliance on nuclear issues is increasingly seen to be of direct relevance to Japan.
In this policy brief, the author explains that the debate within the NATO alliance on nuclear issues is increasingly seen to be of direct relevance to Japan.

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Published by: German Marshall Fund of the United States on Oct 08, 2010
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Summary: The debate within the NATO alliance on nuclearissues is increasingly seen tobe of direct relevance to Japan.In both cases, the issues being debated include the future roleof tactical U.S. nuclear weaponsand consultative mechanismswith Washington. The commonconcern is whether the United
States requires specifc weaponsystems to maintain the conf
-dence of allies. In both NATO and the U.S.-Japan alliance, expand-ing consultations to include non-nuclear elements such as mis-sile defense would strengthenexisting relations. Additionally, bysharing their understanding of nuclear issues with one another,experts in the United States andits allied countries could helpcreate a basis on which the cred-ibility of extended deterrencecan be maintained.
Asia Program
Policy Brie 
In considering ways to maintain —and hopeully enhance — the cred-ibility o U.S. extended deterrence overJapan, it is not surprising that Japaneseexperts have turned their attention toEurope, where the issue o extendeddeterrence has been discussed vigor-ously over the past several decades.Given that the strategic environmentso Europe and Japan are considerably dierent rom one another, there arecertainly inherent limitations to any direct comparison between the twocases. That said, the debate withinthe NATO alliance on nuclear issuesis increasingly seen to be o directrelevance to Japan’s concerns. More-over, the link is not a one-way street:Japan’s debate on nuclear weapons, notleast in the context o U.S. extendednuclear deterrence, seems relevant toEurope as well. In both directions, theissues being debated include the uturerole o tactical U.S. nuclear weaponsand consultative mechanisms withWashington.
Why the NATO Nuclear Debate Is Relevant to Japan and Vice Versa
by Michito Tsuruoka
1
1744 R Street NWWashington, DC 20009T 1 202 745 3950F 1 202 265 1662E ino@gmus.org
October 8, 2010
1
Michito Tsuruoka is a Research Fellow at the National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS), Ministry of Defense, Japan.He served as a Special Adviser for NATO at the Embassy of Japan in Belgium from 2005 to 2008. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not represent those of the Ministry of Defense, the Government of Japan, or GMF.The author would like to thank Ronald Asmus, Ralph Cossa, Michael Keifer, Sebastian Reyn, John Simpson, Colin Stock-man, Bruno Tertrais, David Yost, and Roberto Zadra for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.
Different Fates: The B-61 andTLAM-N
In the European theatre, what is nowgaining much attention is the utureo tactical nuclear weapons — B-61gravity bombs — deployed in selectedNATO countries. The presence o theseweapons has long been regarded as themost visible expression o U.S. resolveon extended nuclear deterrence overEurope. However, a number o analystsand politicians are now arguing thatthose weapons are useless in military terms. Critics such as German Vice-Chancellor and Foreign MinisterGuido Westerwelle have been callingincreasingly or their withdrawal,particularly ater U.S. President BarackObama announced his initiative onnuclear disarmament at his seminalspeech in Prague in April 2009.Whereas the U.S. Nuclear PostureReview Report (NPR) released in April2010 postponed a decision on theuture o the B-61 in Europe, it didannounce Washington’s decision toretire nuclear-tipped Tomahawk cruisemissiles (or TLAM-N). There havebeen some debates both in Japan andthe United States about the potential
 
2
Asia Program
Policy Brie 
implications o its retirement to extended deterrence. SomeJapanese ocials have reportedly expressed their concernthat the missile’s retirement would mean the loss o themost visible pillar o U.S. nuclear deterrence in the region.On the occasion o the previous NPR under the George W.Bush administration in 2001, Washington is reported tohave explained to Tokyo that it would maintain TLAM-Nprimarily to reassure Japan. The latest NPR, however, arguesthat TLAM-N “can be adequately substituted” by “othermeans” including strategic nuclear orces (ICBMs andSLBMs) and the orward deployment o nuclear capablebombers and ghters in times o crisis. It provides no expla-nation as to how the regional security situation has evolvedsince the previous NPR to make the TLAM-N unneces-sary. Certainly the security situation has not appreciably improved, nor have the United States’ missile and orwardbasing capabilities.There are considerable dierences between the B-61 andTLAM-N. The ormer is physically deployed in Europe,while the latter has never been deployed in the region andis held in storage in the United States since the early 1990s.Moreover, whereas the B-61 can be delivered using the dual-capable aircrats (DCA) o European allies in times o war,Japan has no role in operational planning or TLAM-N, letalone actually using it. The argument that the B-61 deploy-ment in Europe takes into account the Russian tacticalnuclear weapon arsenal can similarly be applied to the Asiantheatre, where China has a number o nonstrategic nuclearweapons, including short- and medium-range missiles thatcan be used against U.S. allies in the region.
Are Specifc Weapon Systems So Important?
The central concern, in both cases, is whether the UnitedStates requires specic weapon systems to maintain thecondence o allies in its extended deterrence. The 2010NPR does not explain why “other means” o nuclearweapons — bombers, ghters, ICBMs, and SLBMs — cansubstitute the role o TLAM-N, but not the B-61. It is truethat the existence o the B-61 and DCA in NATO’s rame-work has a symbolic importance related to the essence o alliance solidarity. This goes beyond strictly operationaland military logic. Now that the presence o tactical nuclearweapons in Europe is being seriously questioned, the UnitedStates needs to provide a more coherent argument as towhy the B-61 cannot be substituted. Both European andAmerican proponents o the withdrawal o tactical nuclearweapons rom Europe have pointed to credible extendeddeterrence being maintained in Asia without the presence o such weapons on Japanese or South Korean soil. Washing-ton’s ambiguity on the reasons or its dierentiated attitudeto the B-61 and to TLAM-N would have potential repercus-sions or Japan as well regardless o the military useulnesso TLAM-N itsel. To those concerned about TLAM-Nretirement, the news that the B-61 will remain in Europe —implying that the weapon cannot be substituted — hardly sends a reassuring message.Beyond the unique historical and political arguments orcontinuing to deploy the B-61 in Europe, a more unda-mental challenge or the United States is how to contem-plate a new extended deterrence posture without tacticalnuclear weapons, and how to include such weapons in auture nuclear disarmament agenda with Russia (and in thelong term, with China as well). Given that Russian tacticalnuclear weapons are believed to have been deployed notonly in the European theatre, but also in the Far East, any U.S.-Russian disarmament negotiations on tactical nuclearweapons will be a matter o concern to Japan and otherAsian countries as well. As in the case o the IntermediateNuclear Forces (INF) negotiations during the 1980s, whenJapan lobbied hard or a global approach, Tokyo needs toensure that a potential deal will not have adverse eects onthe Asian security situation.
To those concerned about TLAM-Nretirement, the news that theB-61 will remain in Europe —implying that the weapon cannotbe substituted — hardly sends areassuring message.
 
3
Asia Program
Policy Brie 
Nuclear Consultation With and Without Nuclear-Sharing
Another aspect o mutual relevance or NATO and Japan isthe question o how the United States can conduct nuclearconsultations with its allies. Consultations within NATOare based upon the Nuclear Planning Group (NPG), where,other than France, practically all the allies — not only coun-tries hosting the B-61 or operating DCA — discuss NATO’snuclear policy. The U.S.-Japan alliance does not have a simi-larly established ramework to discuss nuclear issues. As lateas 2009, the two governments began a preliminary dialogueon deterrence (which included a nuclear element) and they seem willing to develop it urther.The biggest dierence between the NPG and the U.S.-Japan dialogue is that while the ormer is based on NATO’snuclear-sharing mechanism involving the B-61, the latterlacks such a physical element. The NPG is meant to managethe alliance’s unique scheme o nuclear risk- and respon-sibility-sharing. That said, however, nuclear consultationin both cases can be seen as a means to help maintain thecredibility o U.S. extended deterrence. In this context,more and more Japanese ocials and experts are gettinginterested in the NPG mechanism, although this does notmean that any — except perhaps those espousing certainextreme views — are interested in introducing a NATO-likenuclear-sharing mechanism to Japan. It may just be naturalor Japanese to look at the NPG given that there is arguably no other model that Japan can think o when consideringnuclear talks with Washington. As long as the NPG is notexclusively about planning surrounding the B-61 and theDCA, there are things that Japan can learn rom the NPG,short o replicating it. Although the work o the NPG is notentirely in the public domain, it is believed to be a venueor discussions on arms control, nonprolieration and theoverall nuclear posture o the alliance, as well as technicalissues surrounding the saety, security, and survivability o nuclear weapons and communications and inormationsystems regarding the B-61 and the DCA. Under the NPG,there are a ew advisory and subordinate bodies includingthe NPG Sta Group and the High Level Group (HLG).To be sure, the NPG may not be a perect instrument interms o involving Europeans in the development o U.S.nuclear policy and reassuring the allies. Since the NPG’sinception, a certain level o ambiguity has always beenobserved regarding the extent to which Washington isprepared to share operational planning inormation withits NATO allies. But the Obama administration’s renewedemphasis on relations with allies can be expected toimprove the quality and the depth o nuclear consultationswith both NATO and Japan.The process that led up to the release o the 2010 NPRappears promising. Washington conducted an unprece-dented level o advance consultation with a number o alliesand partners around the world. There is a strong consensusin Tokyo that it was well inormed and adequately consultedregarding the NPR, and ocials are generally satised by the way the Obama administration handled the process.As a result o this, Tokyo’s concerns regarding the UnitedStates’ nuclear posture, not least its adverse implications orextended deterrence, have almost disappeared. In Europe,too, while there are voices that criticize certain aspects o the NPR, dissatisaction about the consultation processitsel is not oten heard.At rst glance, it appears there is no reason or NATO alliesto look at the case o U.S.-Japan dialogue on nuclear issuesbecause NATO’s scheme is ar more developed. However, atleast in the long term, — especially when considering theuture possibility o the withdrawal o U.S. tactical nuclearweapons — the U.S.-Japan relationship ought to be o interest to NATO as well, as Japan and the United States aretrying to develop a new mode o nuclear consultation notbased on nuclear-sharing. To be sure, nuclear consultationin NATO involves some aspects o this, as non-DCA coun-tries in NATO participate in the NPG and the rameworkis more than just about the management o the nuclear-sharing mechanism. However, some European ocials and
The Obama administration’srenewed emphasis on relationswith allies can be expected toimprove the quality and the depthof nuclear consultations with bothNATO and Japan.

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