Tokyo (AFP) Oct 28, 2006
The policy chief of the Japanese ruling party renewed his calls for a debate over whether Japan should acquire nuclear weapons capability, in the face of nuclear threat from North Korea. "The main goal is to stop North Korea's outrageous acts," Shoichi Nakagawa, policy chief of the Liberal Democratic Party, told a press conference in Washington, where he was visiting.
"As a form of deterrence, one can argue nuclear an option. We must discuss all options to ensure that Japan would not come under nuclear attacks," he said.
Nakagawa, a close ally of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has argued that Japan should not shy away from discussing the nuclear option, long regarded as taboo in Japan, the world's only nation to come under nuclear attack at the end of the World War II.
Abe, known for his passionate support of a larger military role for Japan, has ruled out developing nuclear weapons and promised not to carry out such discussion in the government and in his ruling party.
But Nakagawa's remarks, originally made shortly after North Korea's nuclear test this month, have triggered a debate on the issue, with Foreign Minister Taro Aso echoing the sentiment.
US officials, including US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have said there is no need for Japan to arm itself with nuclear weapons, with the long-standing US commitment to provide security for Japan.
earlier related report
"I will upgrade the Defense Agency to a ministry," said Abe aboard destroyer Kurama during the review of the Maritime Self-Defense Force, which was held in Sagami Bay, south of Tokyo. "I will implement legislations necessary to make the international peace-keeping activities part of the main missions for the Self-Defense Forces," he said.
Japan renounced war under a US-imposed 1947 constitution and calls its troops self-defense forces.
But as well as promoting the Defense Agency, the hawkish prime minister has pledged to revise the constitution, as national guilt for wartime atrocities subsides and the nation takes a greater role in international peace keeping and disaster relief efforts.
Abe observed the review involving 48 ships, nine helicopters and about 7,900 maritime troops, the agency said.
The naval forces drilled firing of anti-submarine missiles, refueling of ships at sea and the operation of submarines, the agency said.
Abe told the maritime troops that North Korea's missile and nuclear development programs posed a great threat to the security of Northeast Asia and the international community.
"I will assure to maintain the safety of the country and its people," Abe said.
Abe later said to reporters: "I saw the Maritime Self-Defense Force trained very well."
"I expect them to keep up the sense of urgency to protect the nation."
The conservative premier's call to revise the post-World War II pacifist constitution has alarmed neighboring nations.
The constitution bars Japan from using or even threatening to use force as a way to settle international disputes. But Abe's predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, sent some 600 troops to Iraq in the first deployment since World War II to a country where fighting was under way.
Dispatched to the relatively safe southern city of Samawa on a humanitarian mission, the troops rely on protection from Australian and British forces, and are only permitted to use their weapons in self defense.
US will not impede nuclear arms debate in Japan: ambassador
Senior officials have called for Japan to discuss the nuclear option in the face of the threat from communist neighbor North Korea, which said on October 9 it had tested its first atomic bomb.
Japan, the only nation to be attacked with atomic bombs, has a four-decade policy against the possession, production and presence of nuclear weapons on its soil.
"The United States also understands very well the three nuclear principles here in Japan and they are not inconsistent with American foreign policy goals here," US Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer told reporters.
"From our standpoint, we have been able to work under those guidelines for a long time and we see no necessity for changing that today," he said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, known for his passionate support of a larger military role for Japan, has ruled out developing nuclear weapons.
But one of his top policy aides, Shoichi Nakagawa, and Foreign Minister Taro Aso have said Japan needed at least to debate the nuclear option, in light of North Korea.
Schieffer said Washington had no objections to the debate in Japan, one of its closest allies.
"What the Japanese talk about with themselves or with their government is up to the Japanese. It is not up to the United States to decide what is appropriate or not appropriate for the Japanese to say," Schieffer said.
Abe said Friday that individual lawmakers were free to express their opinions, even though the government and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party would not take up the issue.
"It is clear that it will not be discussed by the government or a formal party organ," Abe told a meeting of newspaper editors.
But he added: "Other than that, discussions cannot be suppressed because Japan is a free country."
Former prime minister Eisaku Sato proposed developing nuclear weapons in the 1960s, as China built the bomb, but dropped the plan in the face of objections from the US.
Sato later declared the three non-nuclear principles and won the Nobel Peace Prize.
The United States destroyed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II, in the world's only atomic attacks. More than 210,000 people died instantly or from horrific burns.
The US forced Japan to renounce the right to wage war after its defeat, and has since provided it with a security umbrella.
Abe wants to revise the US-imposed constitution's Article Nine, under which Japan renounced the right to maintain a military or even threaten to use force.
Such changes are viewed with unease in China and the two Koreas, which remain resentful of Japan's past aggression.
Schieffer said the US did not have concerns about constitutional revision, a process expected to take several years.
"I don't know that there is an overriding concern that we have about Article Nine," Schieffer said.
"I don't think revision of Article Nine would stand in the way of us being able to do things together for our mutual benefit," he said.
Despite its official pacifism, Japan has about 240,000 troops on active duty and an annual military budget of more than 41 billion dollars, the fourth-highest in the world.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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Defiant Iran Scents World Split On Nuclear Issue
Tehran (AFP) Oct 29, 2006
Iran Sunday remained defiant over its nuclear programme despite the threat of sanctions, saying it was detecting splits between world powers on whether to punish Tehran for intensifying atomic work. With world powers locked in talks in New York over a draft resolution that would impose sanctions over Iran's failure to halt uranium enrichment, Tehran has defiantly expanded work on the process at a key nuclear plant.
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