Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Would Japan go nuclear?
KAWATO Akio /  Former Japanese Ambassador to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan

September 29, 2017
North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and missiles has ignited the debate about Japan’s nuclear armament. Pundits such as Former Secretary of State Kissinger had predicted for some time that Japan would go nuclear, arguing that one day, when abandoned by the United States, Japan would rush to arm itself with nuclear weapons. In Japan, Shigeru Ishiba, Former Minister of Defense, said on September 6th that Japan would need to review a part of its Non-Nuclear Three Principles, which pledge that Japan shall neither possess nor manufacture nuclear weapons, nor shall it permit their introduction into Japanese territory.

 Today, we need a candid, unvarnished debate on nuclear armament.

Concerning the future development on the Korean Peninsula, two broad scenarios are conceivable. One is the use of force by the United States, with China's consent, resulting in the destruction of North Korea's nuclear capabilities. The other is the resolution of the issues through dialogue. In the latter case, the focal issues will be to bring the Korean War to a formal end. That will entail the conclusion of a peace treaty, which will enable the recognition of North Korea as a sovereign state, the establishment of diplomatic relations, and the demarcation of borders. How to tackle North Korea’s nuclear weapons development will also be an important focus.

 Up to that point, Japan can remain safe. Even if nuclear weapons remain in North Korea, their threat can be deterred by the threat of a massive nuclear retaliation by the United States in response to a North Korean nuclear attack on Japan. However, once the peace treaty is concluded, the public opinion in the R.O.K. may well demand the withdrawal of the U.S. forces from its soil. Further, if South and North Koreas should be reunified, it would mean the emergence, as Japan’s immediate neighbor, of a large power with its GDP slightly larger than that of Russia and with nuclear armament, harboring hostility towards Japan.

Amidst all this, would the United States, turning inward, leave Asia to China and withdraw its presence from Japan? Could Japan, standing naked and alone, be forced to cross swords with China, Unified Korea, Russia, and possibly the United States?

That is unlikely to happen. Asia is no less important a trading partner for the United States as the European Union. Without a foothold in Asia, namely the alliance with Japan, the United States would have to act at China’s bidding, instead of “working hand in hand with China”, and would have little to gain from Asia. For this reason, the United States needs the Japan-U.S. alliance as much as Japan does, and will continue to extend its nuclear umbrella over Japan.

However, the U.S. nuclear umbrella has become somewhat porose in recent years. Under the Obama administration, nuclear warheads were removed from the Tomahawk cruise missiles deployed in the Pacific Ocean. Today, the nuclear deterrence, which the United States can offer in the Western Pacific, is limited to ICBMs (long-range nuclear missiles) deployed in the U.S. mainland, long-range nuclear missiles carried by nuclear submarines, and nuclear bombs carried by the long-range bombers deployed in Guam.
None of these weapons would be easily usable. Even if, as Mr. Ishiba argued, the Non-Nuclear Three Principles were relaxed to allow port calls by nuclear-armed U.S. nuclear submarines, there would be no “ nuclear-armed U.S. warships calling on Japanese ports”, unless nuclear warheads are remounted on Tomahawk cruise missiles. Large nuclear submarines carrying long-range nuclear missiles operate in secrecy and would not call on Japanese ports.

What has been the situation in Germany, placed in a position similar to Japan after the end of WWII? Since Germany was spared atomic bombing, the visceral resistance to nuclear weapons is not as strong as in Japan. Since its West German days, it has allowed the deployment on its soil of a number of small nuclear bombs (tactical nuclear weapons), scores of which remain to this day. Those were designed to stem off the onslaught of advancing enemy troops, as massive as the Soviet troops of the past, by detonation right under their nose. These weapons can actually be used only by common decision of Germany and the United States. This is called the dual key system.
Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy have similar systems. However, the possession of nuclear weapons on one’s territory would make one more vulnerable as a target of preemptive attacks by the enemy.

The most suitable model for Japan might be the nuclear submarines with nuclear-tipped missiles as is the case in Britain and France. They are few in number in either country, but constitute sufficient nuclear deterrence. Should it become possible for the public opinion in Japan as well as in the world community to condone Japan’s nuclear armament, the quickest way would be to purchase such submarines from the United States, Britain or France, though it would by no means be easy to do that.

Today, as national borders are rapidly losing their relevance in economic transactions, wouldn’t there be only dwindling significance in sovereign states locking horns with one another on things like nuclear deterrence? That said, Japan’s neighboring countries are bent on their purported rivalry with Japan, putting their pride as sovereign states at stake and fueled by nationalistic zeal. Amidst all this, Japan has to engage in some hard, dispassionate thinking to explore how best to protect its honor and interests. This does not and should not mean that Japan again becomes an aggressive military power. As Japan needs more resources to cope with the challenges of a rapidly aging population, it simply cannot afford an untrammelled increase in defense spending.

(The writer is Former Japanese Ambassador to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
This article first appeared in the September 21 edition of Newsweek Japan.)

The English-Speaking Union of Japan

河東哲夫 / 元駐ウズベキスタン大使兼駐タジキスタン大使

2017年 9月 29日


その中で、内向きになった米国は中国にアジアを委ね、日本からも手を引いてしまうだろうか? 日本は裸一貫で中国、統一朝鮮、ロシア、そしてもしかすると米国とも渡り合うことになるのだろうか?



戦後、日本と同じような立場にあるドイツはどうしているかと言うと、被爆国でないために核への反発は日本程でない。この国は西独の時代から、自国領土に米軍の小型核爆弾(戦術核)を何発も持ち込ませており、それは今でも数十発残っている。昔のソ連軍のような大軍が一気呵成に攻め込んできた時は、その鼻先でこの核爆弾を用いて敵の進軍を止めようというもので、使用する際はドイツ、米国双方の同意が必要であることからdual key(二重引き金)方式と呼ばれる。同種の仕組みはベルギー、オランダ、イタリアも持っている。しかし核兵器を自国領土に置けば、それは敵による先制攻撃の標的になりやすい。



一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟