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Article Reveals New Information About U.S. Nukes in "Non-Nuclear" Japan During the 1950s and 1960s

WASHINGTON (December 13, 1999) - For more than 40 years, the United States has kept secret the fact that it once deployed nuclear weapons on two Japanese islands, Chichi Jima and Iwo Jima, according to an article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' January/February 2000 issue. The article, by three noted nuclear weapons analysts, is a follow up to their article in the November/December 1999 bulletin about the history of the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in 27 countries and territories around the globe.

The authors conclude that though the United States technically abided by Japan's "non-nuclear" principles, the non-nuclear status of the country was fundamentally undermined. Japan was fully integrated into U.S. nuclear war plans, nuclear warheads were deployed on the three Japanese islands of Chichi Jima, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, components were stored on the Japanese mainland, and nuclear weapons were routinely present on U.S. ships and submarines calling at Japanese ports. "Japanese post-war nuclear history is now only becoming clear," said co-author William M. Arkin. "An elaborate contraption was built to accommodate Japanese nuclear sensitivities, but none of it meant that Japan truly escaped the potential effects of a nuclear war."

In the article, "How Much Did Japan Know?," the authors show that the scale of Japanese involvement in the U.S. nuclear infrastructure was much larger than has ever been known. Ambiguity, secrecy, silence and ignorance were the ingredients of the policy. Japan's non-nuclear policy was largely fictitious, and it allowed the U.S. military to optimally base its weapons to wage a nuclear war against the Soviet Union and China.

"There was some unfinished business from the first article," said co-author Robert S. Norris. "There was the question of identifying a mystery site that came alphabetically between Canada and Cuba, and there also was the fact that we incorrectly identified Iceland as a nuclear storage location. We now know that Chichi Jima is the 'C' location and that Iwo Jima is the real 'I' location, and we have the 'smoking gun' documents to prove it."

The United States stored nuclear weapons and/or components on the two occupied Japanese islands from 1956 to 1966. Using newly discovered documents from the National Archives and elsewhere, the authors also show that even after the Pentagon had withdrawn nuclear weapons from Chichi Jima and Iwo Jima when the islands reverted to Japan, military planners wanted to use the islands as secret storage sites for nuclear weapons if World War III broke out and other bases were destroyed.

Additionally, the article reveals for the first time that the United States and Japan signed a secret agreement in 1968 enabling the U.S. military to store nuclear weapons on the two islands in the event of an emergency. According to co-author William Burr, "This agreement was an important precedent for a similar nuclear storage arrangement reached in 1972 when the U.S. returned control of Okinawa to Japan."

The article's co-authors are Robert S. Norris, senior research analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council, William M. Arkin, a military expert, and William Burr, senior analyst at the National Security Archive. Their article, "Where They Were," in the November/December 1999 issue of the Bulletin, received worldwide attention.

Related Websites:
Article on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists website
National Security Archive
Nautilus Institute

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