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Liberal Democratic Party policy chief Shoichi Nakagawa continues to call for debate on whether Japan should arm itself with nuclear weapons. On Oct. 30, he said to the effect: What if North Korea launches a nuclear-tipped missile aimed at Japan. Do we say, “America, please help us”? Before we can say that, the missile reaches us. Now is the time to debate the nuclear option.

This remark followed his earlier call for such debate in Washington on Oct. 27. Foreign Minister Taro Aso, who has made a similar call, says telling politicians and Cabinet ministers to refrain from urging this debate is tantamount to suppressing free speech. But they should realize that debate on the nuclear option would not only undermine Japan’s and the international community’s efforts to have North Korea relinquish its nuclear weapons but also help destabilize the security environment in this region.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made it clear that Japan will uphold its three-point nonnuclear principle of not producing, not possessing and not allowing the entry into Japan of nuclear weapons, and that neither government nor the ruling LDP will hold discussions on whether Japan should go nuclear.

But citing the principle of freedom of speech, Mr. Abe has also said he has no intention of telling individual LDP politicians to keep quiet about it. Although both Mr. Nakagawa and Mr. Aso have expressed their support for the three-point nonnuclear principle, Mr. Abe’s stance could signal the international community that the Abe administration is only paying lip service to the nonnuclear principle. A nuclear Japan would crumble the nonproliferation regime, ushering in a nuclear-arms race among the currently nonnuclear nations of East Asia.

Mr. Nakagawa says he is not urging debate as LDP policy chief but as “one Japanese and one lawmaker.” This is a poor disclaimer. Politicians of Japan, the only nation struck with atomic bombs, must remember that working to eliminate nuclear weapons is their duty.

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