Staff writer

SAKAI, Osaka Pref. — Because other East Asian countries have nuclear arsenals, Japan should discuss beefing up its defenses, not just mulling the introduction of atomic weapons but also aircraft carriers to patrol sea lanes and a multilateral alliance that excludes China, according to Liberal Party lawmaker Shingo Nishimura.

But, like France immediately following World War I, many in the Japanese government believe they are safe from foreign aggressors and do not want to broach such issues, Nishimura charged.

In October, Nishimura’s interview with a weekly magazine, in which he made controversial statements about nuclear weapons and rape, forced him to resign as parliamentary vice minister of the Defense Agency — a painful setback for Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi’s fledgling tripartite coalition.

In an interview Saturday with The Japan Times at his local electoral office here, Nishimura emphasized he was not advocating that Japan build nuclear weapons. Instead, he said, the idea should be discussed in the Diet and U.S. cooperation should be sought.

“It is clear that countries from India to Pakistan to China and North Korea are cooperating to develop nuclear weapons. Missiles from three countries — Russia, China and North Korea — are probably aimed at Japan,” Nishimura said.

“Will America’s protection (of Japan) under its nuclear umbrella continue? Although we should value our alliance with America, we should also begin discussions in Japan on how we can defend ourselves,” he added.

“Nuclear weapons cannot be used, but they will never completely disappear. Within this reality, we must maintain peace. It’s the concept of mutually assured destruction. We need nuclear weapons to maintain peace when surrounded by nuclear powers.”

Nishimura admitted there was no proof North Korea has developed nuclear weapons, but said he firmly believed it has. He also charged that the U.S. knew Pyongyang had a nuclear weapons program but did nothing about it until last year.

“Six years ago, President Bill Clinton assumed North Korea had nuclear weapons, but he figured it was OK, as they couldn’t reach America. Then last year, when North Korea launched a missile, Clinton realized there was a possibility (their) nuclear missiles could reach the U.S.

“That’s why Clinton said (Pyongyang was sending a) satellite (into space). If he hadn’t said that, the American people wouldn’t have accepted the situation,” Nishimura maintained.

The lawmaker said he sees China as the main threat to security in East Asia. Unlike some regional security specialists in the U.S. and Japan, he does not believe a multilateral security arrangement that includes China would be worthwhile.

“There’s no point in creating an alliance with communist countries. But a security arrangement that includes the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and the U.S. is possible. India could be included as well.”

Despite the uproar over his remarks, Nishimura is pleased the taboo of talking about nuclear weapons for Japan has been broken. In suggesting Japan consider the nuclear option, he compared himself to the late French President Charles DeGaulle.

“In the 1930s, (Gen.) DeGaulle surveyed the Maginot Line and warned that it could be easily penetrated and that the Germans could reach Paris in 60 hours. But his concerns were ignored.” Nishimura said. “In that sense, Japan now resembles Europe after World War I, especially France, which thought it was safe.”

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