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Japan considered permitting nuke weapons on U.S. ships

Date Posted: 2007-01-12

Ahead of a visit by U.S. President Gerald R. Ford in 1974, Japan and the US discussed a Tokyo idea of acknowledging the right of US military vessels to carry nuclear weapons in Japanese waters.

Freshly released de-classified documents talk of 1974 meetings between Philip Habib, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Japanese affairs, and Japanese regarding the issue. Habib is quoted as telling then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger Japan “is willing to make some proposals on the nuclear side which are rather interesting.” That November 11, 1974 document came just ahead of a Japan state visit by Ford.

“It means,” Habib said, “that the Japanese government would publicly acknowledge the right of transit of ships with nuclear weapons.” The documents were obtained recently by a Washington non-government group, the National Security Archive. The plan never materialized, and Ford visited Japan without incident.

Japan has maintained a non-nuclear policy for more than 35 years. The policy prohibits producing, possessing or allowing nuclear arms into Japan. Throughout the years, the U.S. and Japan have maintained a carefully worded non-statement about whether American Navy ships are carrying nuclear weapons when entering Japanese waters.

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