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Liberal Democratic Party policy chief Shoichi Nakagawa’s suggestion at the beginning of this week that Japan needs to discuss whether it should arm itself with nuclear weapons is both careless and thoughtless at a time when the international community is making efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula. Such a remark could even jeopardize Japan’s security and national interests.

Mr. Nakagawa’s remarks, on a TV program, came a few days after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the Diet that Japan has no intention of changing its long-standing three-point nonnuclear principle of not possessing, not producing and not allowing the entry into Japan of nuclear weapons. On the same day that Mr. Nakagawa made the remarks, Mr. Abe reiterated that Japan will stick to its nonnuclear principle. But if Mr. Abe overlooks such a remark by Mr. Nakagawa, a key member of his power base, it could create persistent international suspicions about the true intentions of Japan concerning a nuclear option.

While stating that he sticks to the nonnuclear principle, Mr. Nakagawa said Japan’s possession of nuclear weapons could lower or eliminate the possibility of being attacked. He also said a nuclear-armed Japan could hit back if it is attacked. His remarks are too simplistic. Japan’s going nuclear would cause mistrust among neighboring countries and tempt them to arm themselves with nuclear weapons, thus destabilizing the region.

Not only China but also the United States would find it difficult to tolerate Japan’s going nuclear because it would mess up the strategic balance in this region. Going nuclear means withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. How can Japan live outside the NPT regime, which is a basic pillar of the global order? It is also illogical for Japan to call on North Korea to return to the NPT while discussing acquiring nuclear weapons. Mr. Nakagawa should give serious thought to these points.

More importantly, how can Japan, the only nation to suffer from atomic bombings, persuade other nations to give up nuclear weapons if it gropes for a nuclear option itself?

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