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Japan official allegedly did not rule out nuke storage site in Okinawa

Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Takeo Akiba (Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) -- Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Akiba did not rule out the possibility of a nuclear weapons storage site being built in Okinawa Prefecture in comments he allegedly made in 2009 when he was a minister at the Japanese Embassy in Washington, a U.S. researcher said Monday.

    Gregory Kulacki, China project manager at the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists, cited a document he obtained dated Feb. 27, 2009, that summarized Akiba's remarks at a U.S. congressional commission that year.

    "In response to a question from Dr. Schlesinger on how Japan might view the construction of a nuclear storage site in Okinawa or Guam, Counselor Akiba stated that he found such a proposal persuasive," according to the document.

    The document was referring to former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, vice chair of the commission, and called Akiba the embassy's "political counselor."

    In Tokyo, however, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono denied that Akiba had made such a remark.

    "The government has firmly maintained the three non-nuclear principles," Kono told reporters Tuesday, in reference to the 1967 principles of not possessing, not producing and not allowing the introduction of nuclear weapons into Japan.

    Akiba "made no indication that would violate the government's position," he said.

    The commission, chaired by former Defense Secretary William Perry, had discussions with Akiba at a time when the administration of then-President Barack Obama was crafting the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review.

    Summing up the talks with Akiba and two other embassy officials, the document said Japan is "clearly worried" about the threats posed by China and North Korea, and that Japanese officials are nervous that unilateral reductions of U.S. operationally deployed nuclear warheads could have an adverse effect on Japan's security.

    "However, Counselor Akiba did not express opposition toward 'deep cuts' in U.S. operationally deployed strategic warheads, so long as close consultations with Japan are held well in advance and China's nuclear expansion and modernization are kept in mind," it said.

    Responding to a question on whether Washington should maintain its nuclear Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile and air-launched cruise missile, Akiba said, "If the United States were to consider eliminating these capabilities, Japan would like to be consulted well in advance on how the loss of this capability would be offset," according to the document.

    On whether Japan would like to see high-level talks with the United States on nuclear planning similar to those among North Atlantic Treaty Organization member states, Akiba was quoted as saying that he "himself favored it," though Japan's war-renouncing Constitution and domestic opposition might make such a forum difficult.


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