2001 World Conference against A & H Bombs, Japan August 2001
JAPAN – THE CHANGING RELATIONSHIP WITH THE USA.
Contribution to a workshop 5/8/2001
Many of the issues raised this morning sound very familiar to me. For example:
• the change of port status. We saw this in the British base at Gibraltar, where the base status was changed from rest only in order to accommodate repairs to a nuclear-powered submarine;
• the tensions between private and public. We privatised the base which deals with the repairs to nuclear-powered submarines, so to whom is that company mainly responsible? Its shareholders, the Government, the public?
• the danger to shipping from submarines. We have seen many unexplained deaths and sinkings of fishing boats. We have a choice of culprits – the Russians, USA or the British.
You should resist all efforts to make Japan the UK of the so-called “Pacific NATO”.
You are quite right when you describe the threats to democracy of such a relationship. As militarisation develops, transparency disappears.
The European Union of 15 member states is currently developing a Common Foreign and Security Policy. The Union’s Ombudsman, responsible for overseeing good governance and the implementation of the rules, has said that the CFSP is “poisoning freedom of access to information”. That is a very strong statement.
When we look at the UK Government, we see there power concentrated in the hands of the Executive. Parliament does not even have to be consulted on whether we embark upon any military intervention, as we have no modern written constitution to ensure that. We find that questions tabled by Members of Parliament are not always answered if they touch upon matters of national security and we have a Freedom of Information Act which is badly named. We could not have the crucial debate you are having about Article 9 of your constitution. For us, the Executive decides.
I would also add a warning about how such a relationship will poison your dealings with your neighbours. They will not know whether to trust you or not. You may think you are creating friends everywhere – you may end up with not having friends anywhere!
As the British equivalent, you will be expected to be the first to support any military intervention as the USA wants – as we were in the Gulf and in Kosovo. DU weapons were used in both those missions.
At the moment, the European Parliament has a temporary Committee of Enquiry underway which is looking at the operation of the intelligence gathering system known as ECHELON. The UK has been using its facilities (as has New Zealand) to gather information in a number of areas, which has then been passed to the USA. This information covers both military and commercial information. There is some evidence that suggests that commercial information, provided by the UK, has been used against our Treaty partners in the EU by America. So what are our partners supposed to make of this? Why should they trust us? In many instances, it would appear that the UK may not even know what it has passed on, so this is an equal relationship and it never is if the USA is involved.
Resistance to the USA using those same intelligence-gathering facilities for the Missile Defence System is now a key campaign for the British Campaign against Nuclear Weapons.
You should also remember that when the Bush administration walked out of the negotiations on the Chemical Weapons Verification Treaty, one of the reasons it gave was that it could compromise intellectual property rights and commercial secrecy.
This link between the military and the commercial is a growing one. What will it mean for Japan?
I know that this workshop is focussing on the USA but I would urge you not to forget that others are also increasing their nuclear capability – in China, Russia and –to my shame – the UK. We also need to consider what we should make of the Russia/China friendship agreement and the implications of that.
American actions provide both a reason and an alibi for nuclear expansion. We have to develop our contacts in those other countries too, so that we have as strong an international movement as possible.