Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Yasushi Tomiyama

【#181】Abe Would Do Better to Specify Japan’s Nuke Option

Yasushi Tomiyama / 2013.02.19 (Tue)

February 18, 2013

      U.S. President Barack Obama's remarks on North Korea's third nuclear bomb test on February 12 have suggested no strong will to resolutely block North Korea from becoming nuclear-armed. He might have given up on forcing North Korea to renounce nuclear weapons and shifted his priority to dealing with “a nuclear-armed North Korea.”

Has Washington given up on blocking N. Korea?
      In its release outlining telephone talks between President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on February 13 (14 in Japan), the White House cited only two Obama remarks on North Korea's nuclear issue. While quoting the president as indicating that he looked forward to in-depth discussions on the matter when Abe visits Washington later this month, the release noted President Obama reaffirmed that the United States remains steadfast in its defense commitments to Japan, including the extended deterrence offered by the U.S. "nuclear umbrella." The United States has traditionally touched on the nuclear umbrella when being concerned about Japan's possible nuclear armament. The release led me to wonder if President Obama is concerned about Japan's possible nuclear armament rather than North Korea's.
      I angled my head when reading the text of President Obama's State of the Union address on February 12. While vowing to "do what is necessary to prevent them (Iranian leaders) from getting a nuclear weapon,” Obama pledged to strengthen missile defense in response to North Korean threats, indicating North Korea's possession of nuclear missiles as a given premise.
      Some people believe that the United States' different responses to Iranian and North Korean nuclear issues may reflect the fact that Israel as U.S. ally has raised so strong opposition to Iran's nuclear program as to threaten to launch military attack against Iran, while Japan and South Korea as U.S. allies has remained lenient toward North Korea's nuclear development.
      In South Korea, some ruling party leaders and government-affiliated think tank researchers have reportedly called for South Korea to possess nuclear weapons in response to the latest North Korean nuclear test. But no such call has been heard in Japan.

Abe should follow suit with his granduncle
      In October 1964, China conducted its first nuclear test. In January 1965, then Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato told then U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson in Washington that he personally thought Japan should possess nuclear weapons if Communist China had such weapons, according to an official U.S. record.
      Sato was the younger brother of former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi who was Prime Minister Abe's beloved grandfather, meaning that Sato was Abe's granduncle. When serving as deputy chief cabinet secretary under the Junichiro Koizumi administration, Abe said Japan's use of tactical nuclear weapons would not run counter to its Constitution. Following suit with his granduncle, I would suggest Abe tell President Obama during his U.S. visit this week that "Japan should possess nuclear weapons if North Korea has such weapons." Obama may be surprised to hear that and get willing to resolutely block North Korea from becoming nuclear-armed.

Yasushi Tomiyama is Senior Fellow and Planning Committee Member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.