Japan is gearing up to build its own nuclear weapons as part of a wider rearmament drive that would allow it to send troops abroad, experts warn. Tokyo is believed to have the technology to build nuclear weapons anytime.
Two leading Japan experts in the U.S., Richard Samuels of the Center for International Studies at the MIT and James Schoff of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, sounded the warning in a recent report titled "Asia in the Second Nuclear Age."
So far, they write, "memories of horrific nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki have sustained anti-nuclear sentiment and helped justify national policies championing nonproliferation and forgoing an indigenous nuclear arsenal."
They warn that the view no longer holds true that "associated institutional and diplomatic constraints on nuclear breakout" mean that Japan "will find it virtually impossible" to build nuclear weapons.
Instead, they notice signs of a shift, caused by domestic and international factors in public attitudes and political calculation.
About one-third of candidates running in the Japanese general elections last year and this year supported nuclear armament, the report says. This is an all-time high.
Samuels and Schoff cite North Korea and China as external threats which Japan can use as a pretext to develop its own nuclear weapons. The North is the biggest headache to Japan. It could launch a nuclear attack on the island country if it faces regime collapse or an attack from outside, thinking that it has nothing more to lose, they speculated.
"With the U.S. nuclear umbrella shrinking and nuclear threats in Asia becoming greater and more complex, analysts cannot dismiss a nuclear-armed Japan as a purely academic exercise," they said.