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HOME  > Past issues  > 2011 August 3 - 16  > US in mid-1950s used ‘peaceful uses of nuclear power’ hype to clear path for bringing-in of nukes to Japan
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2011 August 3 - 16 [US FORCES]

US in mid-1950s used ‘peaceful uses of nuclear power’ hype to clear path for bringing-in of nukes to Japan

August 5, 2011
The U.S. government in the mid-1950s was staging a massive public relations campaign called “Atoms for Peace” in order to smooth the way for making it possible to bring U.S. nuclear weapons into Japan.

This was revealed in a declassified U.S. government document dated November 18, 1955, a reply from Undersecretary of State Herbert Hoover Jr. to a letter from Deputy Secretary of Defense Reuben B. Robertson Jr.

According to the reply, the United States at that time saw that the early “deployment of nuclear components of atomic weapons to Japan” is “probably not feasible to press for immediate action at this time,” due to the strong anti-nuclear weapons sentiment of the Japanese people.

Robertson in the prior letter was suggesting that a “greater appreciation by the Japanese of the possibilities of the United States progress for the peaceful uses of atomic energy would be useful in reducing existing psychological barriers as well as fostering a greater appreciation of the realities of the military atomic program,” and called for a campaign in cooperation with the Departments of Defense and of State in order to have the Japanese people favorably understand the U.S. atomic energy policy. He was listing some ideas in the letter such as the fostering of pro-nuclear Japanese researchers and holding an atomic expo in Japan.

According to another declassified document (a reply dated December 3,1956, from Special Assistant to the Secretary Gerard C. Smith to a letter from Assistant Secretary of Defense Gordon Gray), the U.S. government was continuing to discuss “the possibility of measures to reduce the political obstacles to storage of nuclear weapons in Japan.” The letter states, “In the short run, we can do ourselves the most good by concentrating on the peaceful uses of atomic energy,” and Japan “would be a better position to accept and perhaps eventually want the availability of atomic weapons in Japan.”

Anti-nuke public sentiment in Japan

In March 1954, Japanese fishing boats were showered with radioactive fallout from a U.S. hydrogen test explosion at the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific. With this incident as a trigger, a movement against nuclear weapons arose and developed in Japan, leading to the holding of the first World Conference against A and H Bombs in August 1955 in Hiroshima.

As a means to diminish such an anti-nuke movement, the U.S. government used the psychological tactics embodied in the “peaceful uses of nuclear power” campaign.

However, the Japanese peace movement continued to grow and develop even after that. Thus, the United States gave up forcing Japan to officially accept the introduction of U.S. nuclear weapons into Japan and instead made the so-called “secret agreement” with the Japanese government to enable it to bring its nukes into Japan behind the curtain of secrecy.
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