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Japan will continue to reject nuclear weapons

Three reasons why Japan will likely continue to reject nuclear weapons, WP,  November 6 President Trump is visiting Tokyo on Monday at a time of renewed national security debates within Japan. North Korea’s recent missile launches and nuclear tests have again prompted discussion in Tokyo on Japan’s policy against becoming a nuclear state.

Although Japan has long had the technical ability to develop nuclear weapons — its “nuclear hedge” — it has refrained from doing so. Japan instead remains firmly committed to its 1967 Three Non-Nuclear Principles of not developing, not possessing and not introducing nuclear weapons.

This is not the first time that Japan has reexamined those principles. Similar debates transpired after China’s hydrogen bomb test in 1967, the Soviet Union’s deployment of medium-range nuclear missiles in Siberia during the 1980s and North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006.

Is this time different? Reacting to North Korea’s threatening behavior, former Japanese defense minister Shigeru Ishiba stated in September that Japan should at least debate the decision not to permit the introduction of nuclear weapons on Japanese territory. Ishiba implied that Tokyo should consider asking Washington to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Japan.

This latest debate is likely to end in the same way as previous debates, however. Japan will continue to adhere to its Three Non-Nuclear Principles and forswear nuclear weapons. Here are three reasons for that:

1) Staying non-nuclear is part of Japan’s national identity

The Three Non-Nuclear Principles are a clear part of Japan’s national identity, not simply a policy preference. Repeated polls indicate overwhelming popular support for the three principles in Japan. A 2014 Asahi newspaper poll revealed that support for the principles had risen to 82 percent, compared with 78 percent in a 1988 poll. Despite growing concerns about North Korea’s nuclear program and China’s military power during this period, Japanese support for remaining non-nuclear actually increased…….

2) Powerful players in Japanese politics can block nuclear acquisition

In addition to public opposition to nuclear weapons, Japan has significant “veto players” — crucial political or economic actors that are likely to block efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

Japan has a robust nuclear energy industry. But public acceptance of nuclear energy in the 1950s resulted from a fundamental political bargain: nuclear energy, but no nuclear weapons……

 3) Japan has good national security reasons to stay non-nuclear

There’s also a realist security calculation to consider. North Korean nuclearization is alarming, but it does not pose such an acute danger that Japanese leaders will be motivated to pay the high political costs necessary to weaken, much less revoke, the Three Non-Nuclear Principles.

North Korea acquiring the ability to deliver a nuclear weapon against the United States may weaken the protective U.S. nuclear umbrella somewhat, but U.S. nuclear and conventional military capabilities should be adequate to deter a North Korean nuclear attack on Japan……

And there’s a final consideration: A Japanese bomb would probably destabilize the country’s relations with China and South Korea. At a time when North Korea is making the international politics of the region complicated, Japan is likely to stay its non-nuclear course rather than make a disruptive nuclear move of its own.


November 8, 2017 - Posted by | Japan, weapons and war

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