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Japan’s welcome of U.S. NPR confirm reliance on “nuclear umbrella”

The government welcomed the U.S. administration’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), a new guideline for its nuclear strategy, as reinforcing deterrence. The government’s welcoming the NPR made clearer the country’s reliance on the “nuclear umbrella” provided by the U.S. As the only atomic-bombed country during World War II, Japan has aimed to realize the abolishment of nuclear weapons, but as it is obvious that the NPR run counter to moves toward nuclear disarmament, opposition parties are strongly criticizing the government.


On Feb. 3, Foreign Minister Taro Kono released a statement: “Japan highly appreciates the latest NPR which clearly articulates the U.S. resolve to ensure the effectiveness of its deterrence and its commitment to providing extended deterrence to its allies including Japan.”  At the same time, Kono said in the statement, “Japan will continue to closely cooperate with the U.S. to promote realistic and tangible nuclear disarmament, while appropriately addressing the actual security threats.” In this way, Kono emphasized the “reality” of Japan as a country exposed to the threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons.


A senior official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “The ideal of abolishing nuclear weapons remains important but now is not the time to do so and it is a fact that during the eight years under the previous Obama administration, China and Russia expanded their military power and threats posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles increased.”


Although Japan supported the policy of reducing nuclear weapons by the Obama administration, which aimed to realize “a nuclear-free world,” Tokyo conveyed its concern to the U.S. about reducing weapons, which could lead to undermining the U.S. deterrence including the abolishment of nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. The latest NPR included the introduction of nuclear-cruise missiles, which is one of the reasons the government gave it high marks.


In response to the NPR, Akira Koike, the head of the secretariat of the Japanese Communist Party, said, “A shift in policy that facilitates the use of nuclear weapons runs counter to the feelings of survivors’ of the atomic bombings who call for the abolishment of nuclear weapons and to the global trend,” criticizing the Japanese government’s response as “outrageous.” Diet affairs committee chairperson Kiyomi Tsujimoto of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan criticized the NPR, saying, “Japan should say, ‘We can’t agree with such a policy’ and the NPR goes against the times and is unacceptable.”


Policy Research Council Chairman Fumio Kishida of the Liberal Democratic Party said, “As the only atomic-bombed country, we need to pay close attention to the NPR to see how it will affect Japan’s long-term goal of realizing a nuclear-free world.” (Slightly Abridged)

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