RYUTO IMAO and MIKI NOSE, Nikkei staff writers
TOKYO — Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday that it is “only natural” for the country to discuss the possibility of nuclear sharing with the U.S.
Speaking at a gathering of the Abe faction, the largest faction in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the former leader repeated his statements on Fuji TV on Sunday, which triggered a wide debate in Japan’s political world.
As part of NATO’s policy on nuclear sharing, American nuclear weapons are currently deployed in five countries: Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.
“We need to think why the former Soviet countries in Eastern Europe yearned to be part of NATO, and indeed entered NATO after independence,” Abe said. “By joining fellow members who exercise collective self-defense, they were going to protect themselves. This included being protected from the threat of nuclear weapons under nuclear sharing.”
“If Ukraine had managed to enter, it would likely not have led to the current situation,” he added.
While noting that the “three nonnuclear principles” of not possessing, manufacturing or permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons onto Japanese territory are basic policy in the country, he said, “It is only natural to discuss how to protect the independence of our people and Japan in this reality that we live in.”
He also said that discussing such issues at the government level is “entirely different” from just talking about it within the LDP, and encouraged serious debate that matches the reality surrounding Japan. “The issue is what happens when we have a neighbor that has no qualms about using armed force.”
Meanwhile, the opposition Japan Innovation Party (Nippon Ishin no Kai) also called for a discussion on nuclear sharing in a policy proposal it submitted to Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi on Thursday.
Japan should “not be bound by traditional frameworks, and increase the defense budget,” it said, making 2% of gross domestic product a goal for the foreseeable future.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday rejected the idea, calling it “unacceptable” given the three nonnuclear principles.
Natsuo Yamaguchi, the leader of the LDP’s coalition partner, Komeito, has also expressed reservation for the idea. “As prime minister and still today, Mr. Abe has always held that the three nonnuclear principles should be maintained. He should stick to that position,” Yamaguchi said earlier this week.
Japan is surrounded by nuclear nations, including China, which has 200 warheads, and North Korea, which is thought to have 20 to 30. The Pentagon predicts that China’s warheads will increase fivefold to at least 1,000 by 2030.