print PRINT


Commentary: Shift to “Two Non-Nuclear Principles”

  • September 27, 2017
  • , Sankei , p. 7
  • JMH Translation

By Professor Emeritus Masamori Sase at National Defense Academy


Opinion polls about Japan’s going nuclear are noteworthy


How do Japanese view missile launches and nuclear tests accelerated by North Korea under the regime of Kim Jong Un?


According to the opinion poll jointly conducted by the Sankei Shimbun and Fuji News Network (FNN) [on Sept. 16–17], 84.7% of the respondents said they “feel North Korea’s nuclear tests and ballistic missiles flying over Japan are threats, while 14.4% said they “do not feel they are threats.” Asked for their views on which, “pressure” or “dialogue,” should be applied to North Korea, 38.4% chose “dialogue,” whereas 56.8% chose “pressure.” In short, a significant number of people feel North Korea’s rapid advancement of its nuclear and missile development is a threat, and they think pressure should be applied on Pyongyang


Reponses to the question regarding Japan’s Three Non-Nuclear Principles were noteworthy. Some 43.2% agreed to review of the principles, while 53.7% disagreed. As for the U.S. bringing nuclear weapons into Japan, 26.2% said they would approve, while 68.9% said they would not. The number of people who would approve is less than 40% of people who would not.  


With regard to the question whether “Japan should possess nuclear weapons in the future,” 17.7% think Japan should, whereas 79.1% think Japan should not. The number of the respondents who approve of Japan’s possessing nuclear weapons is only 20% of those who disapprove.


What should be noted, however, is the fact that the question of whether or not Japan should possess nuclear weapons appeared in an opinion poll. There were no opinion polls conducted regarding the Three Non-Nuclear Principles in the past.


“Not permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons” has been uncertain


The Three Non-Nuclear Principles of not possessing, not producing, and not permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons, in line with Japan’s Peace Constitution, was first announced at the session of the House of Representatives Budget Committee held on Dec. 11, 1967 by then Prime Minister Eisaku Sato. However, it does not necessarily mean that there have been no objections to the principles.


In November 2006, then Liberal Democratic Party Policy Research Council Chairman Shoichi Nakagawa, a member of the House of Representatives, pointed out that the Three Non-Nuclear Principles became in effect the four non-nuclear principles by adding another principle of “not permitting discussion.” Nakagawa went on to say that if even discussing the merits and demerits of the three principles is not allowed, that will make it the five non-nuclear principles by adding “not allowing thinking about the matter.” On Oct. 9 that same year, North Korea under the regime of Kim Jong Il carried out its first nuclear test.


In my opinion, at that time the Three Non-Nuclear Principles were in effect the four non-nuclear principles, because people who opposed Nakagawa were calling for not discussing the nuclear issue. At that time, attention was being paid to the third principle of not permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons. Discussions focused on the U.S. military’s nuclear weapons, in particular, the deployment of ground-based nuclear weapons to Japan and port calls by U.S. military vessels carrying nuclear weapons. It was strange to discuss the two matters at the same time, because the deployment of ground-based nuclear weapons is obviously aimed at using them if necessary, whereas port calls by U.S. military vessels carrying nuclear weapons is for refueling and sailors’ rest. For this reason, in actuality the Three Non-Nuclear Principles, if including such port calls, were as many as “3.5” non-nuclear principles. Under the circumstances, such discussions went nowhere.


I believe what Japan needs is to change the current three principles to two principles based on not possessing and not producing nuclear weapons. This is because it is uncertain whether the third principle of not permitting the introduction is actually followed. If the three principles include port calls by U.S. military vessels carrying nuclear weapons, there is no way to confirm whether vessels actually carry nuclear weapons.


It is important to show North Korea Japan’s capability to develop nuclear weapons


What would be the advantages and disadvantages of Japan removing the third principle? A disadvantage would be Japan’s “nuclear allergy” deeply rooted in the mind of the public, which arises from the fact that Japan is the only A-bombed country.


On the other hand, what would be the advantages? In this case, we don’t need to consider temporary port calls by U.S. military ships carrying nuclear weapons, because the purpose of such calls is not to use nuclear weapons. If the U.S. military deploys ground-based nuclear weapons to Japan, it would essentially be taking potential enemies “hostage” in the sense that it would deter them from attacking Japan.


During the Cold War, the administration of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of West Germany adopted this concept. He allowed the U.S. forces in the country to store nuclear weapons in West Germany and thereby took the former Soviet Union “hostage.” Despite severe criticism from his party, the chancellor remained in power and laid the foundation for ending the Cold War. The question is whether the Abe administration can resolve to shift to the two non-nuclear principles.


Asked about the transit of U.S. military vessels carrying nuclear weapons through Japan’s territorial waters or their calling at Japanese ports, former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba of the Liberal Democratic Party recently said that if such transits and port calls can increase deterrence, the country should accept them. However, Ishiba stopped short of discussing whether he agrees with the deployment of ground-based nuclear weapons by the U.S. military. I want him to deepen discussions on this point.


If Japan decides to shift to the two non-nuclear principles, I recommend that it adopt the following nuclear policy. Although our country will neither produce nor possess nuclear weapons, Japan should conduct research on the development of nuclear weapons. Conducting research on nuclear weapons is different from actually possessing them. Possessing the capability of developing nuclear weapons and calmly demonstrating this to neighboring nuclear countries including North Korea is needed as a security policy. That would serve as a turning point for Japan.


  • Ambassador
  • Ukraine
  • COVID-19
  • Trending Japan