Analysis & Opinions - Japan Forward

Japanese Nuclear Weapons Would Make Japan Less Safe, Not More

| January 18, 2017

Donald Trump, president-elect of the United States, has said Japan should get nuclear weapons — a sentiment echoed in certain Japanese circles as well. However, both Trump and pro-nuclear advocates in Japan are wrong, because a Japanese nuclear arsenal would actually be counter to Japan’s national interests.

This is not the first time that the idea of a Japanese nuclear capability has been floated: In the late 1960s, after the first Chinese nuclear test, the Japanese government under Eisaku Sato sanctioned multiple feasibility studies on how much time and money Japan would need to develop nuclear weapons. However, these studies unanimously argued against making the political decision to build the bomb, citing the tremendous losses Japan would incur in the forms of insecurity, economic costs, and damage to its diplomatic relations in the international community.

To be clear, if Japan were to acquire the atomic bomb today, it would face the same costs and risks that it would have encountered half a century ago. There are three reasons why:

First, if Japan developed nuclear weapons, it would violate international law. As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Japan has committed to remaining non-nuclear and has eschewed the acquisition of offensive arms per Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. Although recent expansive reinterpretations of the Constitution have given Japan the right to exercise collective self-defense, they still require that any such uses of force be implemented as a last resort and to the minimum extent possible. A Japanese nuclear weapons arsenal would not be, inherently and conclusively, defensive, nor would it advance a “collective self-defense” reinterpretation of the Constitution.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Ladha, Rizwan.“Japanese Nuclear Weapons Would Make Japan Less Safe, Not More.” Japan Forward, January 18, 2017.

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