President Trump is visiting Tokyo on Monday at a time of renewed national security debates within Japan. North Korea’s recent missile launches and nuclear tests have again prompted discussion in Tokyo on Japan’s policy against becoming a nuclear state.
Although Japan has long had the technical ability to develop nuclear weapons — its “nuclear hedge” — it has refrained from doing so. Japan instead remains firmly committed to its 1967 Three Non-Nuclear Principles of not developing, not possessing and not introducing nuclear weapons.
This is not the first time that Japan has reexamined those principles. Similar debates transpired after China’s hydrogen bomb test in 1967, the Soviet Union’s deployment of medium-range nuclear missiles in Siberia during the 1980s and North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006.
Is this time different? Reacting to North Korea’s threatening behavior, former Japanese defense minister Shigeru Ishiba stated in September that Japan should at least debate the decision not to permit the introduction of nuclear weapons on Japanese territory. Ishiba implied that Tokyo should consider asking Washington to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Japan.
This latest debate is likely to end in the same way as previous debates, however. Japan will continue to adhere to its Three Non-Nuclear Principles and forswear nuclear weapons. Here are three reasons for that: (…)