The Ampo Treaty’s Troubled Fiftieth Anniversary
Gavan McCormack is emeritus professor at Australian National University. A graduate of the universities of Melbourne and London , he joined the ANU in 1990 after teaching at the Universities of Leeds (UK), La Trobe (Melbourne), and Adelaide. His most recent book is Client State: Japan in the American Embrace, (Verso, 2007), of which Japanese, Korean, and Chinese editions were published by Gaifusha, Changbi, and Social Science Academic Press of China. This article is adapted from the first of a three part series on the Ampo Treaty published in the Asia Pacific Journal.
On January 19, 2010, the Foreign and Defense Minsters of the U.S. and Japan, in a statement to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the mutual treaty on cooperation and security, jointly declared that:
the U.S.-Japan Alliance plays an indispensable role in ensuring the security and prosperity of both the United States and Japan, as well as regional peace and stability. The Alliance is rooted in our shared values, democratic ideals, respect for human rights, rule of law and common interests. The Alliance has served as the foundation of our security and prosperity for the past half century and the Ministers are committed to ensuring that it continues to be effective in meeting the challenges of the twenty-first century.
The year of the “golden jubilee” anniversary of the U.S.-Japan relationship in its current form should be an opportune time to reflect on it, continue it unchanged, straighten it out and revise it if necessary, or even end or replace it with something else. Instead, however, such reflection is blocked by a combination of shocking revelations of some and cover-up of other elements of the past record, pressure to revise in a certain way, and intense political hype. As the fiftieth anniversary loomed, the relationship headed towards a crisis potentially greater than any in the past that could threaten its future.
The 1960 “Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security” (commonly known, from the Japanese abbreviation, as Ampo), was adopted in 1960, replacing the 1951 San Francisco “Treaty of Peace with Japan,” which was the post-war settlement imposed by conqueror upon its defeated enemy in the wake of cataclysmic war and a six year occupation. Then “independence” had been restored only on condition of division of the country into “war state” (American-controlled Okinawa) and “peace state” (demilitarized and constitutionally pacifist mainland Japan), both under U.S. military rule. The 1960 treaty upheld that division, confirming the U.S. occupation of Okinawa and its use of bases elsewhere in the country.
The 1960 adoption of Ampo was tumultuous. The government at the time was that of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which had been set up in part with CIA funds five years earlier, and both in character and inclination owed much to American patronage. It was headed from 1957 by Kishi Nobusuke, the U.S.’s preferred agent, who had been installed as Prime Minister in 1957. Kishi rammed the bill through the House of Representatives in the pre-dawn hours on May 20, in the absence of the opposition, as protesters milled about in the streets outside.
After passage of the bill, President Eisenhower had to cancel his planned visit for fear of a hostile reception, and Kishi was forced to resign. The then U.S. ambassador, Douglas MacArthur II, reported to Washington that Japan was a country whose “latent neutralism is fed on anti-militarist sentiments, pacifism, fuzzy-mindedness, nuclear neuroses and Marxist bent of intellectuals and educators.” The memory of that 1960 crisis has deterred both governments from submitting the relationship to parliamentary or public review ever since.
Interventions and Secret Agreements
Prior to the renewal, during Kishi’s term in office, several agreements were struck that determined key aspects of the subsequent relationship. In 1959, the U.S. government intervened to neutralize a Tokyo District Court judgement (the “Sunagawa Incident” case) in which Tokyo District Court Justice Date Akio held U.S. forces in Japan to be “war potential” and therefore forbidden under the constitution’s Article 9 (the peace commitment clause). Had the Date judgement been allowed to stand, the history of the Cold War in East Asia would have had to take a different course. At 8 A.M. on the morning immediately following it, however, and just one hour before the Cabinet was to meet, MacArthur held an urgent meeting with Foreign Minister Fujiyama Aichiro. He is known to have spoken about the possible disturbance of public sentiment that the judgment might cause and the complications that might ensue. Following that meeting, the appeal process was cut short by having the matter referred directly to the Supreme Court, and MacArthur then met with the Chief Justice to ensure that he, too, understood what was at issue. In December 1959 the Supreme Court reversed the Tokyo Court judgement, ruling that the judiciary should not pass judgment on matters pertaining to the security treaty with the U.S. because such matters were “highly political” and concerned Japan’s very existence.
Following the Supreme Court ruling, the not guilty verdicts in the initial hearings were reversed and the Sunagawa farmers were convicted of trespass in the course of their protest against compulsory acquisition of their land. The U.S. intervention only became known more than fifty years later, from materials discovered in the U.S. archives in April 2008. It was April 2010 before the Japanese Foreign Ministry released thirty-four pages of material to the surviving defendants of the 1959 action.
The Supreme Court ruling, in effect elevating the Security Treaty above the constitution and immunizing it from any challenge at law, entrenched the U.S. base presence and opened the path to the revision of the Security Treaty (and the accompanying secret understandings) a month later. It also helped remove wind from the sails of the then burgeoning anti-U.S. Treaty movement. Denied recourse to the diet and the judiciary, the anti-war and anti-base struggle was forced into the streets.
Second were the series of agreements, later known in Japan as the “Secret Agreements” (Mitsuyaku), under which Japan (especially in 1958-1960 but also in 1969 and later) agreed to support U.S. war preparations and nuclear strategy. With the memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki still fresh in people’s minds, and that of the Daigo Fukuryu-maru (Lucky Dragon # 5), when a Japanese tuna fishermen fell victim to radioactive ash from a U.S. hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll in 1954, even fresher, no Japanese government could have survived if citizens had known how ready they were to embrace nuclear weapons. From time to time, however, there were revelations about these agreements. Documentary proof of them was found in the U.S. archives, but successive Japanese governments persisted to 2009 in denying them. In 2008-9, however, four former Foreign Ministry vice-ministers gave evidence of the existence of the agreements and the deception surrounding them, so that it was impossible for the new government to turn a blind eye to them any longer. Foreign Minister Okada Katsuya ordered a search of the archives for relevant materials on the mitsuyaku and his committee published its findings in March 2010. They confirmed three main understandings: first what they called a “tacit agreement” of the Government of Japan (January 1960) to turn a blind eye to U.S. nuclear weapons, agreeing that “no prior consultation is required for U.S. military vessels carrying nuclear weapons to enter Japanese ports or sail in Japanese territorial waters;” second, a “narrowly defined secret pact” to allow U.S. forces in Japan a free use of the bases in the event of a “contingency” (i.e. war) on the Korean peninsula; and third, a “broadly defined secret pact” for Japan to shoulder costs for restoring some Okinawan base lands for return to their owners….
It is no mere matter of historical concern that the government of Japan was secretly complicit in U.S. nuclear war strategy by its consent to the U.S. introduction of nuclear weapons into Japan, negating one of the country’s famous “Three Principles” (Non-Possession, Non-Production, Non-Introduction), and that the country’s nuclear policy has therefore long been based on deliberate deception at the highest level of government. In 2009, when President Obama made his Prague speech on the U.S.’s “moral responsibility” to act to bring about a nuclear-free world, Japan responded by public support, and joined with Australia to sponsor a new global nuclear disarmament initiative, the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND). However, Japan’s national defense policy remained firmly nuclear, i.e., based on the “umbrella” of “extended nuclear deterrence” provided by the United States, and, behind the scenes, it pressed Washington to maintain it. One well-informed nuclear specialist refers to a “nuclear desiderata” document in which the government of Japan (presumably in the late Aso Taro government period) urged Washington to maintain its nuclear arsenal, insisting that it be reliable (modernized), flexible (able to target multiple targets), responsive (able to respond speedily to emergencies), stealthy (including strategic and attack submarines), visible (with nuclear capable B-2s or B-52s kept at Guam), and adequate (brought to the attention of potential adversaries). The Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States (headed by William Perry and James Schlesinger), adopted very similar wording in advising Congress in May 2009 that “the United States requires a stockpile of nuclear weapons that are safe, secure, and reliable, and … credible.” One sentence in the report (p. 21) read, “One particularly important ally has argued to the Commission privately that the credibility of the U.S. extended deterrent depends on its specific capabilities to hold a wide variety of targets at risk, and to deploy forces in a way that is either visible or stealthy, as circumstances may demand” (emphasis added). That “particularly important ally” is generally understood to refer to Japan. Schlesinger also told the Wall Street Journal that U.S. nuclear weapons are needed “to provide reassurance to our allies, both in Asia and in Europe.”
Although the term “umbrella” is innocuous, even comforting, it means that nuclear victim Japan is also nuclear dependent Japan, resting its defense on nuclear weapon capable B-2 and B-52 bombers stationed at Guam and on Cruise missile-carrying submarines, both ready to inflict nuclear devastation on an enemy just as the U.S. did to it sixty-five years ago. And unless U.S. nuclear submarines somehow are scrupulous in unloading their missiles before heading for Japanese ports, the likelihood is that the governments of the two countries continue today to connive, as through the past fifty years, to flout the “Three Non-Nuclear Principles,” while holding the Japanese people in contempt for their incorrigible “nuclear neuroses.”…
Two decades passed before the treaty relationship was described for the first time as an “alliance.” The use of the term in the Communiqué issued after the return of Prime Minister Suzuki Zenko from a visit to the White House in 1981 caused a furor. When Suzuki explained that he had not meant to suggest any military implications in the relationship, one Foreign Minister resigned and his successor issued the lame explanation that Communiqués were “not binding.” Suzuki was followed, however, by Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro, who defined the relationship in his memorable phrase describing Japan as the U.S.’s “unsinkable aircraft carrier.” Gradually the terms “alliance” and “alliance relationship” became more common, although the actual term “Nichibei domei” (Japan-US Alliance” was only used in an official document for the first time in 1995. So the Treaty is fifty years old, but understanding of it as an “Alliance” is much younger.
The reservations over thinking of the treaty relationship as an “alliance” stem from its limitations. Strictly speaking, it is a narrow agreement for the defense of Japan (in the “Far East” according to Article 6). Although its terms have never been revised, its content and interpretation have been revised repeatedly. Late twentieth century Japanese governments continually adjusted it by expanding its scope in practice, and early twenty-first century governments went further, setting aside legal and constitutional inhibitions in the struggle to meet American prescriptions for making it “mature,” which meant extending it into a global agreement for the combat against terror.
From 2008, as the mandate of the LDP order shrank rapidly and DPJ support grew till in due course it formed a government the following year, details of the interventions and secret deals began to surface, casting a shadow over the anniversary celebrations. The anodyne and celebratory statements issued by official and semi-official sources on the occasion of the anniversary passed over the humiliating circumstances and near catastrophe of the “alliance’s” origin, the web of lies, deception and surrendered sovereignty that grew around and became inseparable from it. Instead, they celebrated the “alliance” as an unqualified good, to be deepened and strengthened.
Under the long, almost unbroken, era of LDP governments or LDP-centred coalitions, 1955-2009, there was only one occasion on which serious consideration was given to the possibility of a basic change in the U.S.-Japan relationship. When conservative one-party (LDP) government was briefly interrupted in 1993, Prime Minister Hosokawa appointed a Commission to advise on Japan’s post-Cold War diplomatic posture. Under the chairmanship of the head of Asahi Beer, Higuchi Kotaro, that Commission predicted the slow decline of U.S. global hegemonic power and recommended Japan revise its exclusively U.S.-oriented and essentially dependent diplomacy to become more multilateral, autonomous, and UN-oriented. In Washington, the “Higuchi Report” stirred anxiety. A US government commission headed by Joseph Nye (then Assistant Defense Secretary for International Security Affairs) shortly afterwards came to a diametrically opposite conclusion, advising President Clinton that since the peace and security of East Asia was in large part due to the “oxygen” of security provided by U.S. forces based in the region, the existing defense and security arrangements should be maintained, the US military presence in East Asia (Japan and Korea) held at the level of 100,000 troops rather than wound down, and allies pressed to contribute more to maintaining them. Higuchi was thereafter forgotten, and the Nye prescription applied.
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