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1974: SATO Eisaku: The Pursuit of Peace and Japan in the Nuclear Age

SATO Eisaku: The Pursuit of Peace and Japan in the Nuclear Age

The Nobel Peace Prize 1974
Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1974



Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Having the exceptional honor to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, rich in tradition and honored throughout the world, before such a distinguished assembly, was, indeed, the most memorable occasion of my life.

I believe that it is not upon me alone that this rare honor has been bestowed; the Japanese people share it with me. All through the years since World War II, the Japanese people have, I am convinced, made strenuous efforts to preserve and promote world peace, contributing to the progress and prosperity of mankind.

It is, therefore, on behalf of the Japanese people as well that I respectfully express my profound gratitude to the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Parliament for their decision to award this prize to us. It is with great pride as a Japanese and with deep humility as an individual that I accept this prize.

I have held the post of Prime Minister of Japan for one-third of the 22-year period since the San Francisco Peace Treaty [1] entered into force. It seems to me that this is an appropriate opportunity to look back upon the Japanese people's opting for peace, and the efforts they have made to give substance to that decision.

If the attainment of peace is the ultimate objective of all statesmen, it is, at the same time, something very ordinary, closely tied to the daily life of each individual. In familiar terms, it is the condition that allows each individual and his family to pursue, without fear, the purpose of their lives. It is only in such circumstances that each individual will be able to devote himself, without the loss of hope for the future of mankind, to the education of his children, to an attempt to leave upon the history of mankind the imprint of his own creative and constructive achievements in the arts, culture, religion and other activities fulfilling social aspirations. This is the peace which is essential for all individuals, peoples, nations, and thus for the whole of humanity.

Though frequent turmoils vitiated life in other parts of the world during the two and half centuries from the beginning of the 17th century, Japan managed to live in tranquility in a state of isolation, neither threatening other nations nor threatened by them. It was only in the mid-19th century that Japan, faced with the growing presence of European powers in Asia, abandoned its policy of isolation, and opened its doors to the outside world, and, with the Meiji Restoration [2], began to move towards the creation of a modern nation state.

Subsequently, the Japanese people experienced a variety of vicissitudes and were involved in international disputes, eventually, for the first time in their history, experiencing the horrors of modern warfare on their own soil during World War II. Japan is the only country in the world to have suffered the ravages of atomic bombing. That experience left an indelible mark on the hearts of our people, making them passionately determined to renounce all wars.

Fully conscious of the bitter lessons of defeat in 1945 and unswervingly determined to seek an enduring peace, our people revised the old Constitution. The new Constitution is founded on the principles of the protection of human rights on the one hand, and the renunciation of war on the other. Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution stipulates as follows:

"Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or the use of force as means of settling international disputes".

Such a declaration renouncing the use of force in the settlement of international disputes, incorporating the philosophy of the Kellogg-Briand pact [3], has been made by peoples other than the Japanese. It is noteworthy, however, that a major power like Japan should have persevered in this direction by national consensus and be determined to retain this attitude in the future.

Japan has changed greatly during the thirty years since the period of confusion following defeat - rebuilding the nation's life and regaining its sovereign independence, with vigorous economic and social development complemented by scientific and technological progress in the sixties. In the meantime, our people made certain important choices.

The first among them was the spontaneous formation of a national consensus not to be armed with nuclear weapons. It has often been pointed out that, with the rise in the level of economic activity and the great strides made in science and technology, Japan has the capacity to produce nuclear arms. However, it is, in spite of Japan's potential, or precisely for that reason, that our people have, on their own initiative, made the firm choice not to be armed with nuclear weapons. This is also the firm policy of the Japanese Government. I wish to take this opportunity to declare this again unequivocally, and beg that my distinguished audience will bear this fact in mind.

It is only natural that for any statesman at the helm of any government the question of his country's security should be a concern of the utmost importance.

Upon assuming the reins of government, I adopted, always conscious of the importance of the role of the United Nations, a policy of following a formula of collective security based on the Charter of the United Nations for the maintenance of my country's security in the prevailing international situation. In the light of the circumstances in which my country was placed, this meant the maintenance of the Japan-US Mutual Security and Cooperation Treaty which took effect in 1960. This treaty is not directed against any country but rather seeks to establish the basic conditions prerequisite for the maintenance of peace. This is the meaning of the treaty.

We, in the latter part of the 20th century, are, however, living in the nuclear age. I pointed out in a basic policy speech delivered in the National Diet in early 1968, that the common task confronting all countries today is the question of how we are to survive this nuclear age.

I established three non-nuclear principles as a policy of the Japanese Government after deep reflection on the course Japan should take as a country which will not possess nuclear arms. This policy states that we shall not manufacture nuclear weapons, that we shall not possess them and that we shall not bring them into our country. This was later reaffirmed by a resolution of our Diet. I have no doubt that this policy will be pursued by all future governments.

It was also during my tenure of office that the Japanese Government agreed to the conclusion of a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and signed it, pursuing a policy in harmony with the avowed desire of the people. Under the terms of our Constitution, the assent of the Diet is required before ratification procedures can be completed; it is my desire to see these procedures completed with the least possible delay.

Thermonuclear energy, used as a means of warfare, has terrifying potential for destruction. In fact, the proliferation of nuclear weapons may well jeopardize the very survival of mankind. Nuclear disarmament has now become a matter of the utmost urgency. Consequently, it is gratifying that the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have made a certain amount of progress.

Nevertheless, this progress represents only a freezing at present level. It is the earnest hope of our people that the world may see the day when all nuclear weapons are abolished. If I may, however, be allowed to put this in more realistic, if more modest, terms, the nuclear Powers, with the United States and the USSR taking the lead, should, at least, cease their quantitative and qualitative nuclear arms race, and sincerely explore effective and practical means for the gradual reduction and international control of nuclear arms.

In this context, I wish to point out to the five nations which at present possess nuclear weapons that they have especially heavy responsibilities for assuring the peace and security of the world. The Japanese people hope most earnestly that constructive efforts will be made by these nuclear powers with a view to bringing about some epoch-making progress in nuclear arms control and disarmament.


The second achievement during my tenure of office that I should like to refer to was Japan's attainment of the reversion to Japan of the Ogasawara and Okinawa Islands.

The international order established at the end of World War II could certainly have been worse. However, this order did contain certain factors which bore within them the seeds of instability. The divided countries provide the most vivid example of this situation. Moreover, the fact that the majority of the divided countries in the world are in Asia indicates how global tensions might concentrate in that continent.

Under the Japanese Peace Treaty, signed in San Francisco in 1951, Okinawa and Ogasawara, integral parts of our national territory, were placed under the administration of the United States, with Japan retaining residual sovereignty. The fact of defeat obliged our country to acquiesce in this arrangement.

However, with the passing of time, the world gradually moved towards stability and prosperity, while our country regained sufficient economic and diplomatic potential to contribute to the progress and development of the community of nations. As these developments took place, the desire that the arrangements I have mentioned should be revised gradually gained ground in our national consciousness.

It was a clearly anomalous situation for one million Japanese people to be still under foreign domination more than twenty years after the termination of hostilities. The desire to see Okinawa returned to Japan developed into a broad national consensus among our people.

By that time, Okinawa had come to occupy a key strategic position in Asia in the framework of the Cold War. Nevertheless I declared soon after my assumption of office as Prime Minister my conviction that: "Until Okinawa is returned, Japan will not have completely emerged from her post-war period". For I had came to the conviction that to leave Okinawa in such an anomalous state would create greater tension in Asia because of the very important position of this group of islands and that to realize the reversion of Okinawa would contribute to a stable peace in the Western Pacific.

I came to be convinced that between countries like Japan and the United States, each with a democratic system and a high standard of living, it would, by means of peaceful negotiations, not be at all impossible to avoid a confrontation, even given considerable differences of interest. The negotiations on the reversion of Okinawa did indeed present a challenge. Fortunately, owing to the wisdom and foresight of its drafters, Article 3 of the San Francisco Peace Treaty left us with ways to obtain a readjustment.

In the light of the mutually shared basis of friendship and trust in the soundness of Japan-US relations, and with the purpose of relaxing tensions in Asia, with the ultimate aim of achieving a stable world peace, I sought from the United States the return of Okinawa in the form of a peaceful alteration of the then prevailing situation.

It cannot be said that these negotiations were easy. However, the United States, as a friendly country, lent a willing ear to the Japanese request. Finally, the great achievement of realizing the return of territory through diplomatic negotiations, an event rarely witnessed in world history, was achieved.

As a result of this political solution, peace and stability in the East Asian region surrounding Japan have been strengthened. Furthermore, the friendly relations existing between America and Japan, which are the key to this peace and stability, have been placed on an even firmer foundation. A situation had been created, moreover, which would serve as the basis for a gradual relaxation of tension with China.

It is my belief that the return of Okinawa is a shining example of a peaceful modification of the status quo and that it also contributed to the relaxation of tension in Asia, and to stability in the Western Pacific region. As for Japan, the return of Okinawa has served as a major factor in fostering political stability.


In the area of foreign relations, I have always sought to maintain friendly relations with all countries, indeed to improve them further. Prince Shotoku who lived from the end of the 6th century to the 7th century was a distinguished political leader of ancient Japan, as well as a great religious leader of the period when Buddhism was introduced into Japan. Japan's first constitution established by Prince Shotoku begins with the declaration: "Harmony is the basic principle to be respected". This spirit is a national and popular ideal which has run throughout Japanese history.

As for myself, I have expressed this spirit of harmony in the words "magnanimity and harmony", making it one of the guiding principles of my political life. There is a favorite saying of mine: "Here I stand and there stand you; but we remain friends". It is only natural that people should differ. Nevertheless, all should accept these differences with tolerance and seek a way in which they can live together in peace through mutual understanding. This, indeed, is the moral principle which has guided me in the reality of politics. I am happy to say that it has the support of many people of goodwill in Japan and elsewhere.

This spirit, when applied in the fields of external relations, can develop into policies for the maintenance of peaceful and fraternal relations, whatever differences may exist among countries whose ideologies, social systems and policies differ.

Prompted by this spirit, I emphasized first and foremost the development of good-neighbor diplomacy in Asia. Depending on the countries and the problems involved, there were occasions when it was not easy to put this policy into practice. However, I never adopted a policy which meant that we looked upon a foreign country with hostility, and I always conducted myself with the utmost sincerity, always being ready for dialogue.

It was with this viewpoint in mind that I undertook in earnest negotiations to normalize relations with the Republic of Korea soon after my assumption to office as Prime Minister. These negotiations encountered numerous difficulties, due largely to national feeling on the part of both the Japanese and Korean peoples, attributable to the historical fact of the past domination of Korea by Japan and to the reality of the Korean Peninsula being divided into two camps.

Nevertheless, the guiding spirit of equality and mutual advantage and the realistic approach of seeking to establish friendship with close neighbors first proved effective. In January, 1966, the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea and the related agreements became effective, thus solving a major pending issue in post-war Japanese diplomacy.

Now to look at Southeast Asia in the 1960s. The economy developed over the entire area at a comparatively steady pace, despite the grave problem of the Vietnam War which fortunately did not spread beyond the Indo-China Peninsula.

This progress was the fruit of the unceasing initiatives and efforts made by various countries under the wise leadership of their leaders. I believe that Japan was also able to make some contribution to this progress. Japan was in the forefront of the nations participating in the establishment of the Asian Development Bank in 1966, took an active part in the convening of the first Ministerial Conference for the Economic Development of Southeast Asia, and also participated in the Asian and Pacific Council. She, thus, made every effort to further the development of regional cooperation and mutual solidarity. The leaders of Southeast Asia rate highly the role our country has played in the non-military areas of the economy and technology. I believe we must continue this cooperation ever more actively in order to achieve tangible results. In addition, the activities of the Youth Overseas Cooperation Corps, whose members devote themselves to working hand-in-hand with and sweat alongside the local people for the improvement of the standard of living in developing countries, not only in Southeast Asia but throughout the developing world, greatly increased during my premiership.

I like to believe that, thanks to numerous opportunities for heart-to-heart talks with Asian leaders in order to deepen mutual understanding, I was able to contribute to the cultivation of friendly and good-neighborly relations in our part of the world.


By an interesting coincidence, my life began in 1901, the year in which the first Nobel Peace Prize was awarded. For 74 years the Nobel Prize has witnessed the bright and dark phases in the quest for world peace. During my lifetime, I have also shared the same experiences. Therefore, I feel that I might be allowed to venture some observations on one of the subjects confronting our contemporary civilization.

That subject is none other than the problem of the utilization of thermonuclear energy.

One of the aspects of thermonuclear energy is its massive, and potentially destructive, power. For this reason, this energy source could clearly pose a dire threat to humanity, depending on the manner in which it is used. Another aspect which cannot be denied is that it is a source of potentially limitless energy which could well open up new vistas for the civilization of tomorrow.

Today, humanity faces difficult challenges in areas such as population, food, natural resources, energy and the environment.

These are grave problems which could destroy peace in this world should we make wrong choices in our efforts to find solutions. The discord among the advanced industrialized countries, the countries possessing natural resources, and the developing countries is growing greater. Unless this difficulty is overcome by the promotion of new sources of energy, especially the peaceful use of nuclear energy, which could assure a stable supply of energy throughout the world, we shall come to an impasse.

However, this peaceful utilization of atomic energy confronts us with problems such as the disposal of waste materials and safety, and one has the impression that its development has come to a standstill. Such a standstill, however, is an unavoidable stage we must accept until technological innovation achieves a major breakthrough. I am convinced that so long as we maintain an unshakable confidence in the progress of science and technology, and provided the world's most brilliant minds are united in their efforts, humanity is capable of building a new civilization of untold possibilities for the future. However, research and development in nuclear fusion - which is considered to be the cleanest source of nuclear energy - face grave problems when reaching the stage of practical use, unless an international system and organization for research and cooperation is established.

Several years ago, I set down the three non-nuclear principles which gave concrete expression to the determination of the Japanese people to achieve peace. As I said before, this was because the entire nation is against the use of thermonuclear energy as a means of killing their fellow men.

However, I am entirely in favor of the peaceful utilization of nuclear energy. That is why I wish to express here today three views on the peaceful uses of this energy.

First of all, we need the creation of international safety standards. I believe that research and development in the peaceful use of nuclear energy should be carried out under common worldwide regulations that take environmental problems into account. One of the basic requirements for this is the establishment of internationally unified safety standards. I hope to see early progress in the establishment of such standards by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is contributing effectively towards the promotion of the peaceful uses of atomic energy.

Next, an international agreement on the exchange and allocation of nuclear fuel will have to be concluded. In view of the trend towards a worldwide shortage of energy resources, there is the risk that at some time in the future an unbridled race for the acquisition of nuclear fuel may develop. Needless to say, such a development would be a threat to peace and detrimental to the well-being of mankind. Therefore, I believe that effective steps should be taken now, based upon a sound vision for the future.

In the light of the above, it would be most desirable to see the establishment of a system where, under the terms of an agreement to be concluded for the exchange and allocation of nuclear fuel, such fuels would be placed under the control of an international agency, which would see to it that countries needing fuel would be assured of a stable supply. However, an immediate issue upon which the development of the peaceful use of atomic energy hinges is an international agreement providing for, at the very least, mutual accommodation with regard to nuclear fuel needs.

Lastly, there is the problem of international cooperation in research and development work on nuclear fusion. The rapid development of a system for the effective use of thermonuclear energy seems to be beyond the capacity of a single nation, no matter how great its resources may be. I suppose that if we could bring together the greatest minds of the world, the time required to bring nuclear fusion into practical use might be considerably shortened, as against present predictions that such a breakthrough may require another twenty to thirty years.

Japan has reached an advanced stage in science and technology. I have no doubt that, should an international research facility be created, young and able brains from among us will gladly volunteer to participate in its work.

I would like to state the three points I have referred to as the "Three Principles for the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy". For a considerable time now, warnings have been given of an approaching fossil fuel energy resources crisis. In spite of these warnings, only inadequate progress has been made in the peaceful uses of atomic energy. One of the reasons for this has been attributed to narrow-minded nationalism. It is true that nationalism has played a role as a symbol of the freedom and equality of each of the countries which make up the community of nations. Politically speaking, the historical role of nationalism has not as yet been played out in the world.

However, it is clear that, when looked at from the point of view of enlarging the future of mankind, narrow-minded and near-sighted nationalism does indeed hamper progress in the peaceful utilization of atomic energy. It certainly does not promote its progress. All peoples should be united in positive efforts to make peace a reality and to strengthen the foundations on which that peace rests so as to secure for all humanity progress and a better life.


I feel extremely fortunate to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at this point in time, as a result of the decision of the distinguished members of the Peace Committee. I am deeply moved, because this means that my sustained efforts for peace over the years have received international recognition. However, when I look back on Japan's history, I am inclined to think that there were people in my country before me who worked for peace, whose achievements far exceeded my own, and who might have been worthier than I to receive the Peace Prize.

I am thinking not only of contributions to peace in the narrow sense of the term. I am convinced that our people, by dint of their ability and efforts, are intrinsically capable of making a great contribution to world civilization.

Had the Nobel Prize been established a thousand years ago, the first recipient of the Prize for Literature might well have been a Japanese woman. Also, had Japan taken part in the life of the international community several centuries earlier, Japanese recipients of the Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Economic Science Prizes might well have been numerous. At present, the Japanese recipients of Nobel Prizes, including myself, number only five [4]. To me, it seems, this offers food for thought.

I say this because Japanese history and culture have followed very unique paths. It is a fact that, because of our long isolation from other nations, we suffer from social awkwardness and we as a people have been unable to contribute actively to world civilization in a measure commensurate with our potential. We should, I think, reflect deeply on the unfortunate inadequacy of our efforts to influence or, rather, to communicate with the peoples of the world. Especially in recent times, in our haste to absorb Western civilization and culture, we have been somewhat deficient, I fear, in our efforts to let foreign nations know about our own civilization and culture.

Japan is basically a difficult nation to understand because the foundation of our culture differs so much from those of the West and of other Asian countries. Because this was so, we should have tried to make ourselves better understood. I cannot but admit that at a time when international understanding was required, our efforts to promote such understanding were inadequate.

When I think of the geniuses and great men of our country who failed to obtain international recognition, I feel all the more fortunate to have been accorded this precious prize. At the same time, I feel deeply the need to increase our own efforts to promote better international understanding.

I intend to make this award culturally meaningful. I, therefore, plan to use the prize I received to further the links between our country and the rest of the world.

The intention of Alfred Nobel in instituting the Nobel Prizes in his will was undoubtedly to promote peaceful relations among nations. I should like to stress that for my part, following in Alfred Nobel's steps, I shall devote myself to increasing still more my people's capacity to contribute to the well-being of the international community, and to obtaining the world's understanding for such efforts.

Thank you.



1. The postwar treaty of peace with Japan was signed in September 1951 by 48 states at a conference in San Francisco.
2. The accession of the Meiji emperor in 1868.
3. The Pact of Paris for the "Outlawry of War", whose initiators were Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg of the United States and Foreign Minister Aristide Briand of France.
4. The others were the physicists, Hideki Yukawa (1949), Sin-itiro Tomonaga (1965) and Leo Esaki (1973), and the literature winner Yasunari Kawabata (1968).
From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1971-1980, Editor-in-Charge Tore Frängsmyr, Editor Irwin Abrams, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1997

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1974

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