Japan may pave groundwork for going nuclear
By Chung Min-uck
Japan has inserted into its nuclear power-related law a clause on “security guarantees” through the use of atomic power, triggering suspicions that it is laying the legal groundwork for possible nuclear armament, some experts said Thursday.
According to the Tokyo Shimbun, the upper house of Japan’s parliament amended the basic law on atomic power, Wednesday.
The newly added line in Article 2 says Japan should secure the safety of nuclear use for the protection of people’s lives, health and wealth as well as a “security guarantee.”
Japan also rewrote the law concerning the use of aerospace by removing the phrase “restricted to peaceful use.”
Coupled with the nuclear bill and the revision of an aerospace bill, some analysts here are suspicious of Tokyo’s motives, saying the revision bill, which got the nod from Japanese lawmakers, might be aimed at using aerospace technology for military purposes.
“Beijing already has nuclear weapons and Pyongyang allegedly has one too. This can fuel ongoing discussion in Japan about nuclear arms,” said Jo Yang-hyeon, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy (KNDA).
The professor added that it is nothing more than a “signal to China and North Korea that Japan could also go nuclear as well.”
The Foreign Ministry said that there should be no need to raise a fuss over the issue.
“It will not be easy for Japan to become a nuclear power as Japan had signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),” said Han Hye-jin, deputy spokeswoman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a media briefing, Thursday. “We are monitoring closely the progress in Japan.”
The NPT is an international treaty aimed at preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and weapons technology.
Some experts downplay the report, pointing out Japan's pacifist constitution that prohibits it from using military forces as a means of settling international disputes and maintaining any war potential. The constitution was enacted in 1947 following defeat in World War II.
Japan, in 1967, also declared its so-called Three Non-Nuclear Principles of non-possession, non-production, and non-introduction of nuclear weapons.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura denied the suspicion, saying that Japan only pursues the peaceful use of nuclear power.
"There will be no military use of nuclear power," Fujimura was quoted by Yonhap as saying. "There is no change in our three principles for peaceful use of nuclear energy."
Experts worry the last phrase _ “nation’s security guarantee” _ can lay the ground for a nuclearized Japan, starting an arms race in Northeast Asia.
The conservative Liberal Democratic Party reportedly passed the revision without having a discussion with other party members. In the face of North Korea’s attempted nuclear tests and the rising military power of China, rightist lawmakers in Japan have lately been calling for the need to amend the pacifist constitution.