Japanese Politicians Dispute Over Whether to Host Nuclear Weapons Amid Ukraine Crisis

Japan will likely revamp its military beyond its self-defense force, expert says
By Kathleen Li
Kathleen Li
Kathleen Li
Kathleen Li has contributed to The Epoch Times since 2009 and focuses on China-related topics. She is an engineer, chartered in civil and structural engineering in Australia.
March 5, 2022 Updated: March 5, 2022

Japanese politicians from both ruling and opposition blocs have called for an active debate on its nuclear weapons policy—in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, experts believe Japan will likely revamp its military beyond its self-defense force, potentially changing the world security landscape.

In a recent televised program, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) said Japan should break a long-standing taboo and discuss the idea of “sharing” nuclear weapons with allies by letting them base some of the weapons on Japanese soil.

“Japan is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has its three non-nuclear principles, but it should not treat as taboo discussions on the reality of how the world is kept safe,” Abe said, The Japan Times reported.

However, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of LDP swiftly rejected the idea of hosting U.S. nuclear weapons as a deterrent.

“It is unacceptable given our country’s stance of maintaining the three non-nuclear principles,” Kishida said in parliament on Feb. 28, following Abe’s call for a debate.

Epoch Times Photo
Japan’s Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, speaks during a press conference in Tokyo, Japan, on Dec. 21, 2021. (Yoshikazu Tsuno/Getty Images)

After Japan’s defeat in World War II, the three non-nuclear principles called for the country not to produce or possess nuclear arms or allow them on its territory.

However, there are different voices within the ruling party. Some LDP officials believe a revision of the three non-nuclear principles should be discussed under the current crisis in Ukraine, according to The Japan Times.

On March 1, LDP General Council Chairman Tatsuo Fukuda told reporters that “no debate [on nuclear deterrence] should be avoided.”

The same day, LDP policy chief Sanae Takaichi said, “You shouldn’t contain discussions on whether to make an exception to the three non-nuclear principles calling for not allowing [nuclear weapons to be] brought into the country.”

The head of the opposition Japan Innovation Party, Ichiro Matsui, has also called on discussions to be held.

China’s attitude toward Russian’s invasion of Ukraine has remained ambiguous. Beijing has continued to walked a cautious line on the conflict, seeking to maintain its relationship with Moscow but unwilling to openly back either side.

According to the readout of a call on Feb. 25, Chinese leader Xi Jinping told Russian President Vladimir Putin that he’d “respect the reasonable security concerns of all countries” without directly mentioning Russia’s invasion of Ukrainian terrotories a day earlier.

The two leaders exchanged warm welcomes during the call and agreed to maintain close contact.

Military commentator and host of The Epoch Times’ “Military Affairs” column in its Chinese edition, Sia Luoshan believes that Japan’s post-war culture of anti-militarism has weakened its military over the decades. Meanwhile, China’s ruling communist party, the North Korean regime, and Russia’s military expansion over the years has become a threat to Japan’s security, causing many Japanese politicians to change their anti-militarism mentality.

Sia believes that Japan will start shifting its military policies beyond just self-defense in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s aggressive military expansion.

“Although the ‘three non-nuclear principles’ still represent the mainstream mentality of the Japanese people, the escalating nuclear threats from China, Russia, and North Korea will inevitably shake those principles. Especially when Putin’s threat of using nuclear weapons is so close to reality,” Sia said.

An annual report by Japan’s Defense Ministry, 2021 Defense of Japan (pdf), highlights China’s unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas, with the Chinese Coast Guard vessels repeatedly intruding into Japan’s territorial water. It emphasizes the need to cooperate with the United States and its allies in response to the rising threat from China.

While both China and Japan have ongoing territorial disputes with Russia, the report underscores close military ties between China and Russia.

In December 2020, the Russian military deployed its new S-300V4 missile defense system for combat duty on a chain of Russian-held islands off Hokkaido. The same month, Russian Tu-95 bombers along with Chinese H-6 bombers carried out long-distance joint flights from the Sea of Japan to the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The joint flight was the second China-Russia exercise following one in July 2019.

Meanwhile, China and Russia’s defense ministers also agreed to extend their nation’s bilateral cooperation agreements on the launch notification for ballistic missiles and other missiles for ten years.

The report also noted China’s “intensified military activities around Taiwan,” including the frequent incursion of Chinese aircraft into the island’s air defense identification zone amid the Chinese Communist Party’s growing threats to claim Taiwan.

“Stabilizing the situation surrounding Taiwan is important for Japan’s security and the stability of the international community,” the report reads.

According to Sia. “The unofficial military ties between China and Russia will cause instability in East Asia and inevitably threaten Japan’s regional security.

“Right now, any conflict in the Taiwan Strait, Senkaku Islands, and the Kuril Islands will attract international attention. All these factors would encourage Japan to bolster the offensive capabilities of its armed forces as a deterrent rather than simply being self-defense,” he added.

Like Japan, Germany, following its defeat in World War II,  has embraced decades of anti-militarism.

However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine marked a “turning point,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in the country’s parliament on Feb. 26, undoing decades of German foreign and defense policy. Scholz even proposed massive investments in Germany’s defense and security, reversing its reluctance to build up its military.

Last week, Berlin sent 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 anti-aircraft defense systems to Ukraine and revoked its opposition to other European Union nations sending German-made equipment to Ukrainian forces in the conflict zones.

On Feb. 22, Germany halted its certification of Russia’s Baltic Sea gas pipeline project Nord Stream 2, which would double the flow of Russian gas direct to Germany. Germany has also declared that it will adjust its energy policy to rid its dependence on Russia.

Kathleen Li
Kathleen Li has contributed to The Epoch Times since 2009 and focuses on China-related topics. She is an engineer, chartered in civil and structural engineering in Australia.