International Perspectives on Preventing an Arms Race in Space

10-12 May 2002

Statement from Satomi Oba from Plutonium Action, Hiroshima at the GN Conference, Berkeley, Ca.


1. Rise of Revisionists and East Asia

In early April, Mr. Ichiro Ozawa, the leader of opponent Liberal Party, stated that Japan is capable of building thousands of nuclear warheads. His comment increased criticism and concern among Asian neighbors who have been already suspicious about the rise of revisionism in Japan. The memories of the cruel aggression by the Japanese military in the Korean Peninsula, China, Southeastern Asia and the Pacific still remain in minds of Asian people.

After the unconditional surrender in August 1945, the Japanese people have tried to build a peaceful and democratic country, and established the new constitution that includes article nine which prohibits Japanís having military power. But currently, the size of Japan's defense budget is reported to be the second in the world.  There are also large number of US bases and other military facilities in Okinawa, Iwakuni, Sasebo, Yokosuka, Misawa and other parts of Japan under the strong US-Japan
military alliance.

The right wing and the revisionists backed by the Bush administration, try to remove the constitutional restriction that prevents Japan from becoming a military power. Especially after September 11 last year, the pressure by the US seems to be increasing. In late November, vessels of the Self Defense Force left Japan for [the] Indian Sea to support the US-British war in Central Asia. It was against the restriction under the constitution and basic defense policy because it was an  exclusively defense-oriented policy.

Even before 9/11, when the rest of the world had strongly opposed the Missile Defense program, the Japanese government had expressed its support of it. Only Ms. Makiko Tanaka, the former foreign minister, criticized it, but other politicians and media harshly attacked her, saying that she lacked diplomacy.

2. Oct.13 Action in 2001

We of Plutonium Action Hiroshima first became aware of the US ambitious star wars program through articles of Dr. Karl Grossman and Cassini Noflyby Campaign in 1997. It was a big surprise to us, and we tried to make the risk and danger of the US space program public in Hiroshima, or in Japan by publishing newsletters, or arranging meetings or street actions.

When we heard of Ms. Tanaka's comments on missile defense, we thought it presented a good opportunity to raise public discussion of it among the people, politicians, and journalists. Documents from the hearing at the Standing Committee of the Canadian Congress by the Middle Powers Initiatives were such good material with which to understand missile defense, we produced hundreds of copies of translations of it, and sent them to politicians, peace activists, local municipalities in Hiroshima, and media.  But we received little reaction from them.

After the tragedy in the US on September 11, encouraged by messages from Global Network, we called for international action on Oct. 13 by the Japanese public. Though little had been known about No Star Wars campaign in Japan, there were actions taken by citizens in Tokyo, Osaka, Isahaya, and Hiroshima City.  And numbers of vigil and rallies against terrorism and Japan's participation to the retaliation war also took place throughout Japan.

On Oct. 13, there were only 20 citizens at the Atomic Bombed Dome in Hiroshima City, expressing opposition to the War in Afghanistan and Star Wars. But we saw positive reactions from the passers-by.  After that, we continued to have an action on every weekend at the A-Dome until the end of the year.  

3. Japanese Version of the Video 'Star Wars Returns'

We had produced Dr. Karl Grossman's video, 'Nukes in Space 2 -Unacceptable Risks' in Japanese in 2000. When coordinator Bruce Gagnon came to Nagasaki, Plutonium Action Hiroshima, Professor Fujioka of Ritsumeikan University and Citizens' groups in Tokyo arranged a speaking tour for him to show the video.  Almost 400 copies have been spread,mostly by the grassroots people all over Japan. After 9/11 more people seemed to beinterested in this video.

As his next video, 'Star Wars Returns' is more updated, and more informative about the current administration of the US, we decided to produce its Japanese version, and it was launched in late March this year.  

4. Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Star Wars

Last June, we launched letters with attached copies of the translation of the MPI document at the Canadian Congress in May, to all the heads of 84 local municipalities of Hiroshima Prefecture, including governor and mayor of Hiroshima City, requesting them to express opposition to MD. There was no response from them.  We also sent the same request to the Mayor of Nagasaki, and received a response from the Peace Promotion Division of Nagasaki City by email, saying that they didn't plan to take any action relating to the MD issue. It made us feel disappointed but later I heard that the average understanding of the MD in Japanese society is that it is not a nuclear issue, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki would not take action on non-nuclear issues.  It seems to be one of the reasons for the indifference of the Japanese public on this issue.

5. Rokkashomura and Misawa : Japan's Nuclear capability and Star Wars

Aomori Prefecture is the northernmost of the Japan mainland. Numbers of nuclear and military facilities including the US Air Force base at Misawa are concentrated in the Shimokita Peninsula of Aomori Prefecture.

Rokkashomura, a small remote village of Shimokita Peninsula became a nuclear village with a huge nuclear complex called Nuclear Fuel Cycle Facilities that includes a uranium enrichment plant, permanent storage of low level radioactive waste, temporary storage of high level radioactive waste, and a reprocessing plant that is supposed to start operation in 2007. The capacity of the reprocessing plant is 8 tons of plutonium from 800 tons of spent fuel per year from commercial reactors all over Japan.  It is unbelievably risky and dangerous to start up such a reprocessing process, in spite of very little call for using plutonium at fast breeder reactors or at conventional commercial reactors in the form of MOX fuel. However, the government plans to build a MOX fuel plant in Rokkashomura, too.

In the region of Rokkashomura there is a nuclear power plant under constructionin Higashi-dori, another planned one in Ohma, and a plan to construct an interim storage facility for spent fuel in Mutsu City. The Shimokita Peninsula also hasUS bases, and a communication facility (Echelon at Misawa), and also has SDFtraining sites. Kei Shimada's excellent photos show the grief and struggles of the people in the district. (Rokkashomura, published in 2001, Kobunken publisher)

Residents and citizens against the nuclear facilities complex in Rokkashomura filed a lawsuit to stop construction or operation of them. According to our expert, the soil is unstable and fragile there, though the government and industries insist they are hard enough to construct nuclear facilities. Besides, there are at least two active faults under the site, but the proponents are reluctant to admit that.  And there is a gigantic active fault of 84km length along with the east coast of the Peninsula at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The fault could cause a tremendous earthquake that would hit all the nuclear facilities of Rokkashomura and other sites.  Can you imagine what disaster would be if there were an earthquake in such a site filled with radioactive and chemical poisons?

On April 15, F16 fighter of the US Air Force base Misawa crashed into the ocean, 200 - 300 miles away from the coast. There had been a dismal record of nine previous serious crash accidents of F16s, and the recent one was the eleventh aircraft that was lost in accidents, says The Too Nippo, a local newspaper in Aomori. Residents, especially fishermen, got furious because the crash seriously damaged their fishery.  The mayor of Misawa also became angry, and sent a strong protest to the commander of the base and the US Ambassador. The Too Nippo reported that the mayor, for the first time, mentioned the possibility of demanding the withdrawal of the US military from Misawa City, if they would continue dismissing residents' demands and such accidents would be repeated.

These facts concerning the Shimokita Peninsula show the seriousness of the nuclear and military condition of Japan.  Not only experts of nuclear proliferation raise concern with the nuclear capability of Japan, but also Mr. Ozawa, one of the influential conservative leaders honestly admitted it. The  F16 is said to be capable of being  equippedwith] nuclear warheads.  There has been evidence that nuclear weapons have been carried into Japan' s territory, though the Japanese government always avoids the discussion of it. The Japanese government has stated the adherence to Three Non-Nuclear Principles as one of its basic defense policies, but they are almost completely undermined because of the presence of the US military.

6. Citizens' protests in Japan

There are various forms of anti-military base and anti-nuclear weapons movements in Japan, but political parties and groups, trade unions have led many of them. Citizen initiative is not strong enough, but grassroots movements are usually independent and creative. Small groups and individuals are trying to spread information about MD and Star Wars, promoting the video. After 9/11, the connection between globalization and the US military deployment, and plans for space war became clearer to us. We need to link the movements in more concrete and effective ways.

A recent, brilliant part of the anti nukes movement in Japan is the anti nuclear energy movement that blocked MOX fuel program at three sites in Takahama, Fukushima, and Niigata in 1999 - 2000.  And last year, in a small town called Miyama-cho, residents rejected the plan of accepting a nuclear power plant through referendum. In some places people filed lawsuit to stop operation of nuclear power plants.

Though there has been a strong anti-nuclear weapons sentiment among Japanese citizens because of the tragic experience of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Bikini, the struggles against nuclear energy have been totally ignored even in the peace movements. For example, the Monju fast breeder reactor (Fukui Prefecture, prototype) which uses plutonium as fuel experienced a sodium fire in December 1995, and the government is still pursuant to restart it, but few are aware that the fast breeder reactor would produce super weapons grade plutonium of 98% purity in its blanket.

In spite of the current international tendency to abandon nuclear energy after Chernobyl accidents, Japan is one of the rare countries to continue supporting nuclear energy policy including a fast breeder reactor program and plutonium reprocessing.

I have heard of a sad story recently: In April this year, IPPNW held an international symposium in Switzerland, aiming at reconsideration of nuclear energy.  It is said that the Japan branch of IPPNW (located in Hiroshima) wanted to send pro-nuclear speakers to the symposium, but the request was rejected.  And it decided not to send any representative or speaker to the symposium. IPPNW is a highly honorable organization, but the Japan branch seems to be quite different. I hope that it will come back to the path for disarmament and non-proliferation.

I have witnessed many cases in which nuclear energy proponents have been apparently leading anti-nuclear movements or peace movements in Japan. Nuclear industries always try to buy activists, and we should not allow such things.  It is necessary and urgent for the Japanese citizens to oppose and change the nuclear energy policy, because we see no positive perspective, instead threatening the world with huge accumulation of weapon-capable material, and [imposing] deadly radioactive waste on the future generations.

7. Importance of Asian Network against Star Wars

Last September, about 20 Japanese activists including me were in South Korea where we held the 9th No Nukes Asia Forum. NNAF is an Asian grassroots network against nukes that started in 1993.  Last year, participants came from South Korea, Taiwan, Beijing, the Philippines, Malaysia, India, Russia, the Netherlands, and Japan.  In exchanging information among countries, and sharing experiences while touring around local communities, the NNAF has been working hard against exports of nuclear power plants to Asian markets, uranium mining in Australia and India, transportation of nuclear materials, and Japan's plutonium program, etc.  

The participants seemed to have been impressed with the video 'Nukes in Space 2'.  Those from India, China,or Philippines, especially expressed deep interest and concern, but the outline of the star wars program is still to be revealed to the Asian people.  Social movements in South Korea are far stronger than those of Japan, and they say that the MD is one of the top issues among Korean peace movements. I think that we need to explore more possibilities of creating more links among Asian NGOs, because from the East to the West Asia, from Palestine to Okinawa, Rokkashomura and Misawa, it is the Asian people and environment that have been harshly sacrificed by the globalization and military power.



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