Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Kiyofumi Iwata

【#899】Why Not Discuss Nuclear Weapons?

Kiyofumi Iwata / 2022.03.16 (Wed)

March 14, 2022

In a television program on October 15, 2006, Shoichi Nakagawa, then chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council, called for carrying out thorough discussion about nuclear weapons, drawing a lot of responses at home and abroad. He explained his real intention on a weekly magazine later: “I have never argued that Japan should possess nuclear weapons at all. What I said was that we should discuss nuclear weapons. More specifically, I said that I would like to propose discussions on nuclear deterrence. That is deterrence for Japan’s peace and security, including deterrence against abduction. It is unreasonable to stifle discussions.”

More than 15 years later, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a television program on February 27: “While Japan has three non-nuclear principles, we should not regard discussion on nuclear weapons as a taboo. Within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Germany and other members implement nuclear sharing. We should discuss how to protect the people’s lives with an eye to various options.”

Nakagawa and Abe are absolutely right. They did not call for possessing or producing nuclear weapons. But they called for discussing nuclear weapons.

Possible Chinese intimidation during Taiwan contingency

Russia still continues its invasion of Ukraine. Neither Diplomatic efforts nor economic sanction warnings, nor skillful U.S. and Ukrainian information war tactics could deter the war. We must acknowledge the reality that a country must have its own power to push back other’s power. The power includes not only conventional but also nuclear power. A big nuclear-weapon state Russia threatens to use nuclear weapons to intimidate a non-nuclear neighbor. The international community cannot stop such intimidation.

Meanwhile, China is predicted to possess about 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030, rivalling the United States as a nuclear power. China, which imposes dogmatic values on other countries and does not hesitate to use force to change the status quo, can be expected to threaten the use of nuclear weapons to expand its hegemony while constraining the U.S. power. Taiwan and Japan are located on the first island chain that blocks China’s expansion of its hegemony. How would Japan respond if Chinese President Xi Jinping is lured into miscalculation and overconfidence, as is the case with Russian President Vladimir Putin, invades Taiwan and threatens the use of nuclear weapons against Japan that supports U.S. forces participating in Taiwan’s defense?

Insecure under a nuclear umbrella alone

Among NATO allies, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Turkey share with the United States some 100 nuclear bombs thar can be carried by military aircraft to deter Russian nuclear use. This proves that they think a U.S. nuclear umbrella is not enough to defend their security.

To prevent today’s Ukraine from becoming tomorrow’s Japan, it might be necessary for us to discuss all options to defend Japan’s security, including the revision of the three non-nuclear principles, without regarding any option as a taboo, as urged by Abe and Nakagawa.

Kiyofumi Iwata is a councilor at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals. Formerly, he served as Chief of Staff of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.