Is Tokyo going nuclear?Japan is creating a stir again. The upper house of Japan’s Diet added the words - “contributing to national security” - to Article 1 of a new law on the creation of a committee to regulate atomic power use when it passed the amendment Wednesday. It also defined the basic goal of studying, using and developing nuclear power as guaranteeing the “security of Japan.” That raises serious questions of whether Japan is attempting to establish a legal foundation for nuclear armament, causing deep worries about a nuclear arms race across Northeast Asia.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Osamu Fujimura, stressed Japan has no intention to use nuclear power for military purposes. He explained that Japan will strictly respect its long-cherished three Non-Nuclear Principles, which mandate the country to neither possess nor manufacture nuclear weapons, nor permit their introduction onto Japanese territory. However, we cannot but wonder why Japan chose the term “security” instead of “safeguards” to describe the goals of the revision.
Moreover, Japanese politicians didn’t go through discussions of the issue when they pushed ahead with the revision. The wording in question was reportedly inserted at the last minute at the request of the conservative Liberal Democracy Party. We cannot rule out the possibility of the Japanese government and politicians striking a closed-door deal while keeping an option open for nuclear armaments in the future.
Japan’s far-right forces have persistently called for nuclear armament as a result of nuclear threats from North Korea. Once it chooses, Japan could make nuclear weapons within months given its 30 tons of plutonium stockpile, which is enough to manufacture as many as 10,000 nuclear weapons. In addition, Japan’s rocket technology can be redirected into long-range missiles at any time.
In reality, however, Japan’s building nuclear arms would be difficult without consent from the United States and China - and unless Japan acquires nuclear power status under the Non-Proliferation Treaty after joining the ranks of permanent members of the UN Security Council. Then again, China will most likely oppose it.
If Japan aims for nukes outside the NPT, it must be ready to be branded an international maverick. And if Japan makes nuclear weapons, Korea has no other choice but to do so, too. Japan must correct its wrongly worded law.