Ishihara rattles saber against China

Nuclear 'simulation' swagger is coupled with sympathy for Tibetans, call for defense buildup

by Natsuko Fukue

Staff Writer

Shintaro Ishihara, the new head of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), remained true to his China-hawk form Tuesday by saying Japan should “simulate” possessing nuclear arms as a deterrent to Beijing.

Ishihara’s remark during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo, is likely to ruffle feathers both at home and abroad, especially amid the territorial row with China over the Senkaku Islands.

“It’s high time Japan made simulations of possessing nuclear arms,” Ishihara said. “That would become a form of deterrent” against China’s possible military encroachment.

The 80-year-old former Tokyo governor also said the defense budget should be increased while dealing with China in a “calm but resolute manner.”

“We need to say no to China when necessary because I don’t want Japan to be like Tibet, which has fallen under Chinese power,” said Ishihara, who coauthored the best-selling essay “The Japan That Can Say No” in 1989 with late Sony cofounder Akio Morita. The book urges Japan to become more assertive in international affairs.

“I feel so sorry for the Tibetan people,” he said.

Ishihara repeatedly referred to China as “Shina,” the name often associated with Japan’s military occupation during the war, instead of “Chugoku,” the Japanese word for the country.

“Shina is not a negative word. And for Japanese, Chugoku means Hiroshima and Okayama” — the Chugoku region in western Honshu, he said.

Ishihara asserted that most Japanese agree with him that Japan should deal with China in a calm but assertive manner when conflict arises.

The platform of Nippon Ishin no Kai, which was founded by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, states the party will urge China to agree to bring the Senkaku dispute to the International Court of Justice for a ruling on which country has sovereignty over the rocky islets long held by Japan.

Ishihara said defense spending, now limited to 1 percent of the national budget, should be boosted.

“I think the skills of the Japanese military industry are high,” he said, voicing his personal view. “Why not boost the ability of (the nation’s) self-defense?”

Ishihara said he basically supports the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks but then added “he cannot forgive” the U.S. promotion of genetically modified food. The TPP is opposed by farmers who fear it would lead to a flood of cheap, imported produce after tariff barriers are removed.

He said the government should not rush to abandon nuclear power and instead calculate how the economy would fare without such energy. “Hashimoto and I agree that we should do such calculations,” he said.

Hashimoto had advocated abandoning nuclear power by the 2030s and had earlier said his party would pursue this goal. But in consideration of Ishihara’s stance, he did not include this in the joint statement issued Saturday when his party absorbed Ishihara’s four-day-old group.