China has reacted angrily to a call by former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe for Tokyo to consider hosting US nuclear weapons in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and rising concern over Chinese aggression toward Taiwan.
Abe, who presided over record defense budgets before resigning in 2020, said Japan should cast off taboos surrounding its possession of nuclear weapons following the outbreak of war in Europe.
“In NATO, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy take part in nuclear sharing, hosting American nuclear weapons,” Abe said in a TV interview, Nikkei Asia reported. “We need to understand how security is maintained around the world and not consider it taboo to have an open discussion. We should firmly consider various options when we talk about how we can protect Japan and the lives of its people in this reality.”
Japan, the only nation to have been attacked with nuclear weapons, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is part of the US nuclear umbrella, but has for decades adhered to three non-nuclear principles — that it will not produce or possess nuclear weapons or allow them on its territory.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida quickly rejected Abe’s call for a debate on the nuclear-sharing option.
“It is unacceptable given our country’s stance of maintaining the three non-nuclear principles,” Kishida, who represents a constituency in Hiroshima, told lawmakers this week.
“Japanese politicians have frequently spread fallacies related to Taiwan and even blatantly made false remarks that violate the nation’s three non-nuclear principles,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) told reporters in Beijing.
“We strongly ask Japan to deeply reflect on its history,” Wang said, adding that Tokyo should “be cautious in words and deeds on the Taiwan issue to stop provoking trouble.”
Abe, a conservative whose lifelong political ambition is to revise Japan’s “pacifist” constitution, said any conflict involving China and Taiwan would also constitute an emergency for Japan.
He called on the US to end its “ambiguity” on the defense of Taiwan, noting that it is just 110km from Yonaguni, Japan’s westernmost inhabited island.
“The US takes a strategy of ambiguity, meaning it may or may not intervene militarily if Taiwan is attacked,” Abe said. “By showing it may intervene, it keeps China in check, but by leaving open the possibility that it may not intervene, it makes sure that the Taiwanese forces for independence do not get out of control.”
Abe, leader of the biggest faction in Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, has made several hawkish interventions on security policy that enjoy support inside the party, but could provoke a backlash among voters nervous about Japan’s potential involvement in regional conflicts.
China’s state-run Global Times accused Abe of attempting to “unlock” Japanese militarism.
“It is not only ironic, but also a huge real risk, that a group of people in the only country in the world that was bombed by atomic bombs would call for an invitation to the culprit to deploy nuclear weapons in their own territory,” it said in an editorial.
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