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Japan signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Oslo on 3 December 2008. On 10 March 2009, Japan’s Cabinet approved a bill implementing the convention. The bill bans production and possession of cluster munitions and affirms Japan’s obligation to dispose of cluster munitions in its stockpiles. The bill, which also serves to ratify the convention, has been submitted to both chambers of the Diet for deliberation. The government indicated that it aims to enact the bill and ratify the convention during the current Diet session, which ends in June 2009.[1] A Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs official was quoted as saying the fast-track approval of the legislation was “unprecedented.”[2]

Japan is party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), but has yet to ratify Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War.

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Japan was not initially supportive of the Oslo Process and advocated instead for restrictions on cluster munitions within the framework of the CCW. During the course of the Oslo Process, Japan’s cluster munition policy developed substantially and since signing the convention, Japan has shown commitment to push for early ratification.

In 2005, Japan provided a detailed statement on its national view of cluster munitions, indicating that its Self-Defense Forces “possess cluster munitions to attack and interdict vehicles such as tanks or landing crafts which deploy and move in a wide area in case of landing invasion by an adversary. From the viewpoint of Japanese military policy which is exclusively defense-oriented, we believe they are indispensable.”[3]

At the CCW Third Review Conference in November 2006, Japan did not support a proposal for a mandate to negotiate a legally-binding instrument in the CCW “that addresses the humanitarian concerns posed by cluster munitions.”[4] The proposal was not agreed.

Nevertheless, Japan decided to attend the initial meeting in Oslo that launched the Oslo Process in February 2007. At the conclusion, Japan was one of only three states of the 49 present that did not endorse the resulting Oslo Declaration, in which states pledged to conclude in 2008 a legally-binding instrument prohibiting cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.[5]

Japan went on to participate in all three of the international diplomatic conferences of the Oslo Process to develop the convention text in Lima, Vienna, and Wellington, as well as the formal negotiations in Dublin in May 2008. It also attended regional conferences in Cambodia (March 2007) and Lao PDR (October 2008).

At the Lima conference, Japan argued that cluster munitions remained important for the national security of many countries and stated that “if a total ban or an immediate ban is pursued…we will not be able to obtain support from those countries with cluster munitions and therefore could not be an effective response to the issue.”[6] Japan pursued three main avenues which it considered would ameliorate the humanitarian harm caused by cluster munitions and be necessary for the agreement of an instrument: technical provisions aimed at minimizing the failure rate of submunitions; compliance with international humanitarian law; and consideration of the implications of a new instrument for “interoperability” (joint military operations with states not party).[7]

At the Wellington conference, Japan strengthened its lobbying for the inclusion of provisions on interoperability, and argued that the prohibition on “assistance” should apply to development, production and acquisition of cluster munitions, but not to their use. Japan called for a transition period for an unspecified number of years, during which the use of cluster munitions would be allowed “only when strictly necessary.”[8] Japan associated itself with the so-called like-minded group that put forth a number of proposals strongly criticized by the CMC as weakening the draft text. Japan supported the joint statement of the like-minded group at the end of the conference expressing disappointment with the proceedings and the unwillingness to incorporate their proposals into the draft text.[9] Nevertheless, Japan subscribed to the Wellington Declaration, indicating its intention to participate fully in the formal negotiations in Dublin on the basis of the Wellington draft text.

For the Global Day of Action on cluster munitions on 19 April 2008, cluster munition survivor and international ban advocate from Serbia, Branislav Kapetanovic, met with Japan’s Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs and other officials to urge Japan to support a comprehensive ban on cluster munitions in the Oslo Process. Working with the Japan Campaign to Ban Landmines, Kapetanovic gave talks and media interviews to raise awareness on the issue just weeks before the negotiations in Dublin.[10] Japan’s Parliamentarians’ League against Cluster Munitions was established shortly after this visit.[11]

At the Dublin negotiations in May 2008, Japan again pushed for provisions on interoperability and for a transition period.[12] Japan stated that the outcome of the conference would depend on whether the issue of interoperability could be resolved.[13] Japan continued to argue that mechanical fail safe mechanisms could be sufficiently effective in reducing the humanitarian harm caused by cluster munitions. Against this background, Japan joined the consensus in adopting the convention text, but expressed some doubt as to whether it would be able to sign the convention in Oslo.[14]

In November 2008, during the Global Week of Action, the Japanese Campaign to Ban Landmines continued its campaigning efforts, sending lobbying letters to the members of the Japanese Diet’s caucus on cluster munitions, and organizing a panel discussion on the convention in Tokyo. NGOs such as Peace Boat, Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) Japan and Japan Initiative organized events to promote signature of the convention.[15]

Japan had served as a Friend of the Chair during the 2008 CCW work on cluster munitions and when that exercise failed to conclude anything in November 2008, Japan stated that it would continue to support CCW work on cluster munitions in 2009. Japan said that even with the Convention on Cluster Munitions, a CCW protocol would be necessary to “put a heavy political price on the future use of cluster munitions.”[16] Japan did not join 26 states that issued a joint statement expressing their opposition to the weak draft text on a possible CCW protocol on cluster munitions, indicating it was an unacceptable step back from the standards set by the Convention on Cluster Munitions.[17]

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hirofumi Nakasone signed the convention on behalf of Japan in Oslo in December. Noting the importance of the convention in rebuilding countries after armed conflicts, and as evidence “that the attitude of the human-beings towards armed conflicts has entered a new phase,” he called the Convention on Cluster Munitions “an epoch-making treaty.”[18]

Use, Production, Stockpiling, and Transfer

Japan is not known to have ever used cluster munitions, but it has produced, stockpiled, and imported them.

In 2001, the United States provided assistance and technical data to support Japan’s production of cluster bombs called CBU-87 Combined Effects Munitions, each of which contains 202 bomblets.[19] In addition to CBU-87 bombs, Japan has acknowledged that it stockpiles M483A1 artillery projectiles (each with 88 dual purpose improved conventional munition, DPICM, submunitions), M26/M26A1 rockets (each with 644 submunitions), and M261 Hydra helicopter rockets (each with nine submunitions).[20]

The government has not revealed the number of cluster munitions in its arsenals. Media reports indicate that Japan’s Air and Ground Self-Defense Forces have spent about ¥27.5 billion to procure submunitions since the 1980s. [21]

In late November 2008, Japan’s Mainichi Daily News reported that the Japanese government had decided to destroy its entire stockpiles of cluster munitions[22] One report estimated the cost of destroying Japan’s stocks of cluster munitions at around ¥20 billion.[23] Minister of Defense Yasukazu Hamada said in November 2008 that Japan appropriated ¥7.5 billion from its fiscal year 2009 budget for precision guided weapons as one alternative to cluster munitions, and for expenses associated with research on disposal of cluster munitions.[24]

[1] “Gov’t gives green light to bill banning production, possession of cluster bombs,” Mainichi Daily News, 11 March 2009, mdn.mainichi.jp. It is titled “Legislation on ban of production and on regulation of possession of cluster munitions” and is available in Japanese at

[2] Ibid.

[3] Delegation of Japan to the Conference on Disarmament, “Reply to the Questionnaire by Pax Christi Netherlands, Subject: Military Utility of Cluster Weapons, Country: Japan,” 31 May 2005.

[4] Proposal for a Mandate to Negotiate a Legally-Binding Instrument that Addresses the Humanitarian Concerns Posed by Cluster Munitions, Presented by Austria, Holy See, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and Sweden, Third Review Conference of the States Parties to the CCW, Geneva, CCW/CONF.III/WP.1, Geneva, 25 October 2006. After that proposal failed, Japan also chose not to join 26 nations in supporting a declaration calling for an international agreement that would prohibit the use of cluster munitions “within concentrations of civilians,” prohibit the use of cluster munitions that “pose serious humanitarian hazards because they are for example unreliable and/or inaccurate,” and require destruction of stockpiles of such cluster munitions. Declaration on Cluster Munitions, Third Review Conference of the States Parties to the CCW, CCW/CONF.III/WP.18, Geneva, 17 November 2006.

[5] CMC, “Report, Oslo Conference on Cluster Munitions, 22–23 February 2007,” February 2007, www.stopclustermunitions.org.

[6] Statement of Japan, Lima Conference on Cluster Munitions, 23 May 2007. Unofficial transcription by WILPF.

[7] Ibid, 24 May 2007.

[8] Statement of Japan, Session on General Obligations and Scope, Wellington Conference on Cluster Munitions, 18 February 2008.

[9] Statement of France on behalf of like-minded countries, Wellington Conference, 22 February 2008.

[10] CMC, “Global Day of Action to Ban Cluster Bombs – What Happened,” www.stopclustermunitions.org.

[11] Stephanie Castanie and Branislav Kapetanovic, “Branislav’s visit in Japan,” 1 May 2008, blog.banadvocates.org.

[12] Statement of Japan, Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions, Committee of the Whole on Article 1, 19 May 2008. Notes by Landmine Action.

[13] Statement of Japan, Informal Discussions on Interoperability, Dublin Diplomatic Conference, 20 May 2008. Notes by Landmine Action.

[14] Statement of Japan, Committee of the Whole, Dublin Diplomatic Conference, 28 May 2008. Notes by Landmine Action.

[15] CMC, “Global Week of Action to Ban Cluster Bombs, 28 October – 2 November 2008,” www.stopclustermunitions.org.

[16] Statement of Japan, 2008 Meeting of the States Parties to the CCW, Geneva, 13 November 2008.

[17] Statement delivered by Costa Rica on behalf of Austria, Belgium, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, Croatia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Holy See, Honduras, Indonesia, Ireland, Lebanon, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, Uruguay, and Venezuela, Fifth 2008 Session of the CCW Group of Governmental Experts on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 5 November 2008.

[18] Statement by Hirofumi Nakasone, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Convention on Cluster Munitions Signing Conference, Oslo, 3 December 2008.

[19] US Department of State, Office of Legislative Affairs, “Notification of Export Certification Pursuant to Section 36(c) of the Arms Export Control Act,” Transmittal No. DTC 107-1, 1 October 2001.

[20] Delegation of Japan to the Conference on Disarmament, “Reply to the Questionnaire by Pax Christi Netherlands, Subject: Military Utility of Cluster Weapons, Country: Japan,” 31 May 2005.

[21] Kuniichi Tanida, “Cluster bomb ban to force defense overhaul,” International Herald Tribune (Herald Asahi), 6 August 2008.

[22] “Japan to eliminate stockpiles of cluster munitions, ban new acquisitions,” Mainichi Daily News, 21 November 2008, mdn.mainichi.jp.

[23] “Japan to abolish cluster bombs,” Jiji Ticker Press Service, 21 November 2008.

[24] Ministry of Defense, “Press Conference by the Defense Minister,” 28 November 2008, www.mod.go.jp.