Despite Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's recent declaration that Japan will join the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, heated debate continues over the pros and cons of participating in the free-trade initiative.

One question that has surfaced repeatedly since Noda's announcement is whether Japan can opt out of the U.S.-backed TPP if the government decides taking part would undermine national interests.

Experts say Japan reserves the right to pull out of any international agreement at any time, but others say it would be practically impossible for Tokyo to do so once it joins the TPP talks, because of Washington's strong desire to include its fourth-largest trading partner and the world's third-largest economy in the regional trade pact.