History 118: Eisaku Sato’s three “non-nuclear principles,” (1974)

In 1974, Eisaku Sato, Prime Minister of Japan, won the Nobel Peace Prize. Here are the three “non-nuclear principles” elaborated in his Nobel Lecture speech. If you read the address in full you will note that Sato did not oppose what he called the “peaceful utilization of nuclear energy.” This is an excerpt:

Though frequent turmoils vitiated life in other parts of the world during the two and half centuries from the beginning of the 17th century, Japan managed to live in tranquility in a state of isolation, neither threatening other nations nor threatened by them. It was only in the mid-19th century that Japan, faced with the growing presence of European powers in Asia, abandoned its policy of isolation, and opened its doors to the outside world, and, with the Meiji Restoration2, began to move towards the creation of a modern nation state.

Subsequently, the Japanese people experienced a variety of vicissitudes and were involved in international disputes, eventually, for the first time in their history, experiencing the horrors of modern warfare on their own soil during World War II. Japan is the only country in the world to have suffered the ravages of atomic bombing. That experience left an indelible mark on the hearts of our people, making them passionately determined to renounce all wars.

Fully conscious of the bitter lessons of defeat in 1945 and unswervingly determined to seek an enduring peace, our people revised the old Constitution. The new Constitution is founded on the principles of the protection of human rights on the one hand, and the renunciation of war on the other. Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution stipulates as follows:

“Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or the use of force as means of settling international disputes”.

Such a declaration renouncing the use of force in the settlement of international disputes, incorporating the philosophy of the Kellogg-Briand pact3, has been made by peoples other than the Japanese. It is noteworthy, however, that a major power like Japan should have persevered in this direction by national consensus and be determined to retain this attitude in the future.

Japan has changed greatly during the thirty years since the period of confusion following defeat – rebuilding the nation’s life and regaining its sovereign independence, with vigorous economic and social development complemented by scientific and technological progress in the sixties. In the meantime, our people made certain important choices.

The first among them was the spontaneous formation of a national consensus not to be armed with nuclear weapons. It has often been pointed out that, with the rise in the level of economic activity and the great strides made in science and technology, Japan has the capacity to produce nuclear arms. However, it is, in spite of Japan’s potential, or precisely for that reason, that our people have, on their own initiative, made the firm choice not to be armed with nuclear weapons. This is also the firm policy of the Japanese Government. I wish to take this opportunity to declare this again unequivocally, and beg that my distinguished audience will bear this fact in mind.

It is only natural that for any statesman at the helm of any government the question of his country’s security should be a concern of the utmost importance.

Upon assuming the reins of government, I adopted, always conscious of the importance of the role of the United Nations, a policy of following a formula of collective security based on the Charter of the United Nations for the maintenance of my country’s security in the prevailing international situation. In the light of the circumstances in which my country was placed, this meant the maintenance of the Japan-US Mutual Security and Cooperation Treaty which took effect in 1960. This treaty is not directed against any country but rather seeks to establish the basic conditions prerequisite for the maintenance of peace. This is the meaning of the treaty.

We, in the latter part of the 20th century, are, however, living in the nuclear age. I pointed out in a basic policy speech delivered in the National Diet in early 1968, that the common task confronting all countries today is the question of how we are to survive this nuclear age.

I established three non-nuclear principles as a policy of the Japanese Government after deep reflection on the course Japan should take as a country which will not possess nuclear arms. This policy states that we shall not manufacture nuclear weapons, that we shall not possess them and that we shall not bring them into our country. This was later reaffirmed by a resolution of our Diet. I have no doubt that this policy will be pursued by all future governments.

It was also during my tenure of office that the Japanese Government agreed to the conclusion of a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and signed it, pursuing a policy in harmony with the avowed desire of the people. Under the terms of our Constitution, the assent of the Diet is required before ratification procedures can be completed; it is my desire to see these procedures completed with the least possible delay.

Thermonuclear energy, used as a means of warfare, has terrifying potential for destruction. In fact, the proliferation of nuclear weapons may well jeopardize the very survival of mankind. Nuclear disarmament has now become a matter of the utmost urgency. Consequently, it is gratifying that the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have made a certain amount of progress.

Nevertheless, this progress represents only a freezing at present level. It is the earnest hope of our people that the world may see the day when all nuclear weapons are abolished. If I may, however, be allowed to put this in more realistic, if more modest, terms, the nuclear Powers, with the United States and the USSR taking the lead, should, at least, cease their quantitative and qualitative nuclear arms race, and sincerely explore effective and practical means for the gradual reduction and international control of nuclear arms.

Fair use excerpt from nobelprize.org.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *