For Immediate Release
United States to Retire Nuclear-Armed Tomahawk Missiles
Japanese Legislators Urge Obama Administration to Restrict the Purpose of U.S. Nuclear Weapons to Deterrence
WASHINGTON - The Japanese press reported yesterday that the United States will
retire its nuclear-armed Tomahawk cruise missiles, signifying the end
of an ongoing debate within the Obama administration over the future of
these weapons. The Tomahawk's status is one of several contentious
issues the administration has worked to resolve as part of its
soon-to-be-released Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which will guide U.S.
nuclear weapons policy for the next five to 10 years.
During the 1980s, the U.S. Navy deployed approximately 300 nuclear
Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles on surface ships and submarines. In 1992,
following the end of the Cold War, President George H.W. Bush withdrew
these weapons and placed them in storage in the United States, where
they have remained available for redeployment on submarines. They were
scheduled to be retired in 2013, but in May 2009, the high-level
Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States
recommended retaining—and presumably refurbishing—the weapons, based on
testimony by several Japanese diplomats. The commission, called the
Perry-Schlesinger Commission after its chair and vice-chair, former
U.S. defense secretaries William Perry and James Schlesinger, argued
that the nuclear Tomahawk was a key component of the U.S. nuclear
umbrella, and that Japan would be "very concerned" if the United States
retired the weapon.
Since last spring, however, the Tomahawk issue has attracted the
attention of Japanese officials and the general public. In response to
questions from Japanese Diet members, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya
Okada launched an investigation into the diplomats' testimony to the
Perry-Schlesinger Commission. In late December, Okada sent a letter to
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Secretary of Defense
Robert Gates disavowing the testimony, stating that it did not
represent Japan's official position.
"Retiring the Tomahawk missile is an important step in fulfulling
President Obama's pledge to revamp U.S. nuclear weapons policy, which
is still stuck in the Cold War," said Gregory Kulacki, a senior analyst
with the Union of Concern Scientists' (UCS) Global Security Program.
"And this decision appears to be more in line with Japanese thinking
about nuclear weapons than what was reflected by the Perry-Schlesinger
The Japanese position on nuclear weapons was amplified last week
when 204 members of Japan's Diet sent a letter to President Obama
supporting his efforts to reduce the role of nuclear weapons. The Diet
members also called on the United States to "immediately adopt a
declaratory policy stating that the 'sole purpose' of U.S. nuclear
weapons is to deter others from using such weapons against the United
States or U.S. allies."
The Obama administration will define the purpose of U.S. nuclear
weapons as part of its Nuclear Posture Review, which it is expected to
release in early March. UCS has urged the administration to adopt the
same policy the Diet members spelled out in their letter.
The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.