The Korean press was in uproar Thursday after reports that a new bill passed this week in the Japanese Diet paves the way for Tokyo to acquire nuclear weapons. The Asahi Shimbun reported that the revised bill, amended Wednesday by the Liberal Democratic Party and endorsed by the ruling Democratic Party and New Komeito Party, includes a controversial clause that nudges open the door to defensive use of nuclear arms.
The clause says that the safe use of atomic power contributes to "national security."
Japan's Atomic Energy Basic Act allows it to research and develop atomic energy, but the parameters were limited to peaceful use. But the first revision to the act in 34 years has raised concerns since the term "national security" in Japan encompasses defense and military purposes.
The bill also entrusts the management and supervision of Japan's atomic power plants to a single body following the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year.
The clause was not in the draft bill proposed by the Japanese government but added as part of an amendment by the LDP and NKP. The Communist Party and Socialist Party of Japan opposed that clause, but the ruling DP supported it.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura played down any intention to use atomic power for military purposes. "The government has no goal at all for its military use," he told reporters Thursday.
But his comments failed to quell fears that Japan may have paved the way to develop nuclear weapons later on.