Japan rattled a significant saber yesterday in its parliamentary session. In a debate clearly intended for the Chinese rather than the Japanese audience, Foreign Minister Taro Aso told a security committee that Japan could easily and quickly begin production of nuclear weapons:
Japan has the technological know-how to produce a nuclear weapon but has no immediate plans to do so, the foreign minister said Thursday, several weeks after communist North Korea carried out a nuclear test.
Foreign Minister Taro Aso, who has called for discussion of Japan’s non-nuclear policy, also asserted that the pacifist constitution does not forbid possession of the bomb.
“Japan is capable of producing nuclear weapons,” Aso told a parliamentary committee on security issues. “But we are not saying we have plans to possess nuclear weapons.”
Thus far, the Japanese Prime Minister has refused to consider adding nuclear weapons to the country’s defense. However, Aso and several other ministers in the government have made it clear they expect the question to receive serious consideration. They want others to understand that all of the options are now on the table.
Which outsiders? Obviously Kim Jong-Il is one target, but realistically, Japanese nuclear weapons will probably not deter Kim, not without a demonstration of the will to use them. The Japanese know that as well. They’re targeting China with this debate, because Japanese nuclear weapons would undermine the hegemony that Beijing wants in the Asian Pacific. China is the one nation that can put enough pressure on North Korea to dismantle the nuclear-weapons program Kim has begun, and in fact may already have decided that Kim’s nukes have become more of a liability than an asset at this point. Their hand can be seen in Kim’s return to the six-party talks, and it’s no coincidence.
Should Japan arm themselves with nuclear weapons? They should at least consider it … very publicly.