Allowing nuclear weapons in Japan could defuse North Korean threat, say some policy makers

"Perhaps it's time for our three principles to become two," a senior defence policy maker told Reuters, suggesting nuclear weapons be allowed into Japan.

By: Reuters | Tokyo | Published: September 6, 2017 6:40 pm
north korea, japan, japan nukes, usa, donald trump In his election campaign last year, Donald Trump chided Japan and South Korea for not contributing enough to their defences.

As Japan looks for a quick, resolute response to North Korea’s growing missile threat, some defence policy makers in Tokyo say it may be time to reconsider non-nuclear pledges and invite U.S. nuclear weapons on to its soil. Japan, the only country to suffer nuclear attack, upholds three non-nuclear principles that commit it not to possess, manufacture or allow nuclear weapons on to its territory that were adopted five decades ago.

“Perhaps it’s time for our three principles to become two,” a senior defence policy maker told Reuters, suggesting nuclear weapons be allowed into Japan. He asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue. North Korea, pursuing its weapons programmes in defiance of international condemnation, fired an intermediate ballistic missile over Japan last week, prompting authorities to sound sirens and advise residents to take cover.

On Sunday, North Korea tested a nuclear device that had a yield estimated at ten times that of the atom bomb dropped by the United States on Hiroshima in 1945. Inviting US nuclear weapons would be an attempt by Japan jolt China, North Korea’s sole major ally, to do more to rein in its neighbour by showing there are consequences to North Korean provocations that threaten its neighbours and destabilize the region, the policy maker said.

A simple way to do this could be for a nuclear-armed US submarine to operate from one of the US Navy bases in Japan, he said, a move bound to infuriate China. Former Japanese defence minister Shigeru Ishiba stoked controversy on Wednesday by questioning whether Japan can expect protection under the US nuclear umbrella while maintaining its non-nuclear principles. “Is it right that we don’t discuss this?” Ishiba asked in a television interview.

In his election campaign last year, Donald Trump chided Japan and South Korea for not contributing enough to their defences. On Tuesday, the president said he was ready to sell Seoul billions of dollars in weapons and scrap a limit on the size of warheads the Washington would supply. “We don’t have any plan to begin discussing the three non-nuclear principles,” Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters when asked to respond to Ishiba’s comment.

Yet, the growing North Korean threat could stifle some of the opposition, experts say. “Just by raising this issue of nuclear principles, Japan will push the United States and China to act, and it is something that Beijing is not going to like,” said Takashi Kawakami, a security expert at Japan’s Takushoku University.

“It’s the medicine that China needs to make it act against North Korea.”

Allowing the US military to deploy nuclear weapons on Japanese territory would pose a grave political risk for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, particularly amid an influence-peddling scandal that has hit his popularity ratings.

Any move towards relaxing the non-nuclear principles, however, is unlikely to lead to a home-made atomic bomb, despite Japan’s technical abilities, say experts. “Tokyo has the civilian nuclear programme, fissile materials and the weaponisation technology necessary. It could probably develop a small arsenal of nuclear devices within a year if there was motivation to do so,” said Emily Chorley, a nuclear weapons expert at IHS Janes.

But doing so would force Japan to renege on its non-proliferation commitments and could severely damage Washington’s alliances and position of strength in Asia. “This would signal that the Japanese no longer have confidence in US extended deterrence,” said a former senior U.S. military commander who asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to talk to the media.

“That would essentially mean that they no longer have confidence in the alliance.”

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  1. S
    Sep 14, 2017 at 6:22 pm
    India should provide nuclear weapons to Japan and South Korea and Vietnam.
    1. Rabindra Kumar Das
      Sep 6, 2017 at 9:04 pm
      It couldbeaChinese policy to encourage North Korea to nuclear explosion and missiles spree so that it can coolly do needful in south China Sea. Theymusthave provided them with ready made missiles. And Kim must have played a pawn to Chinese like Pakistan.
      1. A
        abe shit to be fucked
        Sep 6, 2017 at 8:45 pm
        japan h0le should be ed to death..............criminals......pearl greed.
        1. Ravishanker Verma
          Sep 6, 2017 at 8:37 pm
          Perhaps these policy makers in Japan don't realize that this world has not still forgotten about the role of Japan in two previous world wars. Equipping itself with massive military capabilities and with nuclear bombs , Japan is sure to raise eyebrows elsewhere in Asia and in the rest of world. Who knows these North Korean nuclear testings just signal the emergence of an upcoming frankestiene in near future?
          1. Rabindra Kumar Das
            Sep 6, 2017 at 9:10 pm
            Japan has an old population not fit enough to endure a war in near future say 30-40 years. So don't break your head over this. Chinese and North Korea are more unpredictable.
          2. J
            Sep 6, 2017 at 7:39 pm
            Single dumbest idea ever. We dropped the sun on them...twice. I don't think they will ever forget that.
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