TAIPEI – Japan is unlikely to develop nuclear weapons to counter the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons capability, a Japanese security specialist said last week in Taipei.
Yuki Tatsumi, director of the Japan Program at the Stimson Center, a Washington think tank, said Japan will not go down that road for two main reasons.
The first is psychological. Japan is the only country to have suffered a nuclear attack, which Tatsumi said is “something that carries over from generations to generations.”
On top of that, the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster reinforced the perception that nuclear power is unacceptably risky.
The second reason is a practical one. Even if Japan begins to develop nuclear weapons now, it will be very difficult to catch up to what North Korea has already achieved.
It would be wiser, she said, for Japan to invest in strengthening its missile defense systems, work closely with the United States and, hopefully, cooperate more closely with South Korea in sharing intelligence and other areas.
Tatsumi made the remarks during a question-and-answer session at a one-day international forum organized by Taiwan Thinktank, a research institute in Taipei.
She was asked to comment on the proposal made by the former commander of the U.S. Navy in the Pacific, Vice Adm. John Bird, that because Pyongyang is unlikely to give up its nuclear capability, Japan should develop nuclear weapons to prompt China to restrain its neighbor and ally.
Tatsumi said she does not think Japan will increase its activities unless it is provoked by Beijing’s increasing military strength.
She also said pressure from China will not persuade Japan to alter its behavior in the East China Sea, where the two are mired in a dispute over ownership of the Senkaku Islands.
“The Senkaku issue is a sovereignty issue,” she said, and Japan “will not back down.” She said that how Japan responds is being closely watched by the Philippines and Vietnam, which face similar challenges in the South China Sea.
“Japan’s behavior … gives a reassurance to the countries in Southeast Asia that you don’t have to cave and you shouldn’t cave,” she said.
On Taiwan-China relations, Stephen Young, a retired U.S. diplomat, said Chinese President Xi Jinping has been trying to bully Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, which Young said is “short-sighted.”
“I don’t think she’s that kind of person that can be bullied,” Young said. “China is making a mistake not to reach out to Taiwan.”
Young, former director of the American Institute in Taiwan, America’s de facto embassy in Taiwan, said the United States has a strong commitment to Taiwan, and it would be very foolish for China to test that.