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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 February 22 - 28  > Science Council of Japan established based on remorse over wartime cooperation
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2017 February 22 - 28 TOP3 [PEACE]

Science Council of Japan established based on remorse over wartime cooperation

February 22, 2017
After the end of World War II, Japanese scientists pledged to not conduct military research based on remorse over their wartime military cooperation. With the Abe government promoting a military-academia partnership, a veteran physicist underscores the significance of this pledge.

The Science Council of Japan (SCJ) was established in 1949 as a representative body of scientists in the country. The SCJ in its founding pledge expressed deep remorse over Japanese researchers’ past conduct and resolved to contribute to the country’s peaceful reconstruction and the promotion of human welfare. In 1950 and 1967, the council issued statements declaring that its members will refuse to participate in military-related research projects.

Keio University Professor Emeritus Konuma Michiji, who was the chair of the SCJ special committee on nuclear physics, explained to Akahata how Japanese scientists came to make the pledge to refuse to engage in military-related research and how important that pledge is today. His interview article which Akahata carried on February 22 is as follows:

What was happening during the war? In those days, Japan had the “national research council”. It was founded in 1920 and can be regarded as a predecessor of the SCJ. In 1943, the council set up a committee on the mobilization of scientific research and then created subcommittees one after another to develop acoustic weapons, electronic weapons, jet propellers, and other military weapons systems and equipment. After the country was unable to produce weapons, planes, and munitions due to material shortages, the council even formed a subcommittee to study ways to arm the entire Japanese populace with makeshift weapons.

During the war, physicist Yukawa Hideki was engaged in research on nuclear weapons. In August 1945, the Education Ministry ordered Yukawa and fellow professors at Kyoto University to dispose of documents concerning state-sponsored research projects, according to notes that Yukawa took in a science faculty meeting at that time. Most scientists lent a helping hand to the militaristic regime in one way or another and they had little doubt about the appropriateness of their actions as they were indoctrinated to accept wholeheartedly the state ideology.

Yukawa was shocked to see the devastation caused by the atomic bombs, a “fruit” born from scientific R&D. He realized that war should never again be supported and that a nuclear-free world is a necessary condition for human survival. Yukawa became even more active in peace movements after the U.S. carried out hydrogen bomb test explosions in Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean in 1954.

Albert Einstein, who regretted having advised the U.S. government to develop atomic bomb technologies, and other Nobel laureates in 1955 issued the Russell-Einstein Manifesto which calls for the elimination of nuclear weapons and the peaceful use of science and technology. Yukawa was also one of these Nobel Prize winners. Two years later, the world’s top scientists established the Pugwash Conference with the resolve to create a world free from nuclear weapons.

The SCJ was established in 1949 based on deep remorse over scientists’ wartime cooperation and made a pledge to work together for the construction of a peaceful Japan. The SCJ’s founding pledge was a result of the involvement in peace movements by scientists in Japan and the rest of the world.

In 1945, the UN Charter was adopted and it incorporates the principle of working for a peaceful settlement of disputes between states. Three years later, under the supervision of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, eight distinguished social scientists issued a joint statement that wars are not inevitable. In Japan, a group of more than 50 researchers studied this statement thoroughly and in 1949 drew up the Japanese scientists’ statement on war and peace, which supports the renouncement of war. It was only several years after Japan’s surrender in WWII. The memory of lives during the war was still vivid to many Japanese and their remorse over their contributions to continuing the war was well-grounded.

In addition, physics, geological, and other scientific societies and groups in Japan also published their peace statements. Referring to this move, the SCJ made its founding pledge of peace and its 1950 statement refusing to conduct military-related research.

The International Council for Science (ICSU) in 1965 made a mutual agreement that regardless of reasons, the international body and its member organizations will not accept funds from any military or related state authorities. The SCJ is a member of this umbrella organization.

This agreement was proposed by physicist Fujioka Yoshio of the SCJ in an ICSU meeting, according to documents that I found in a warehouse of the SCJ.

During WWII, the imperial Japanese government manipulated information, depriving academics and other people of the ability to make informed, reasonable decisions. What I just said seems to hold true for Japan today. For example, the defense minister said that the ministry refrained from using the word “combat” to describe a violent situation in South Sudan because otherwise it would be problematic in the light of the Japanese Constitution. This is nothing but a manipulation of information.

The Defense Ministry and the U.S. military are proposing commissioned research projects for universities and other institutions in Japan. These projects include research topics that can be utilized for non-military uses. Then, why does the defense ministry offer its funds for them? The reason is that the ministry wants to use the findings of the sponsored research projects to develop new weapons without restriction. Such a government policy is clearly wrong given that Japan has its war-renouncing Constitution. If scientists go along with these policies, they will repeat the same mistakes that were made seven decades ago.

In order to keep the SCJ’s founding pledge alive, the council should promote dialogue between generations by holding symposiums and study meetings at various locations across the country.

Past related articles:
> Citizens and scientists form network to oppose military-academia cooperation [October 1, 2016]
> Science Council divided over military research [May 22, 2016]
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