Tokyo, Seoul hold ‘ugly’ nuclear option

Should Japan choose to go nuclear, it would only be a matter of months before an ICBM can be deployed. The technology, delivery systems and the material are all there. South Korea would likely have some roadblocks going nuclear, but shouldn’t be too far behind with help from neighbors who have the same security needs.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is undermining regional stability in Northeast Asia, with the present crisis on the Korean Peninsula again prompting the neighboring states into seriously reconsidering their national security policies. This is particularly the case for Japan, against which North Korea has deployed, or so it is widely believed, approximately 200 Nodong missiles.

Regardless of nuclear weapons, the possibility of highly destructive military conflict on the Korean Peninsula remains very high. But with nuclear weapons added to the mix, the potential consequences of renewed conflict for Japan, South Korea, and the United States forces stationed there are incalculably greater.

While Japan has always supported the agenda of a world free of nuclear weapons, the regional security dynamics as they are now could persuade the Japanese leadership to change its mind in the near future and revoke Article 9 of its constitution that forbids the acquiring of nuclear weapons. Indeed, senior Japanese leaders have occasionally noted Japan’s capacity – and right – to exercise this option, particularly in the context of a heightened sense of crisis over North Korea’s activities.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, regarded as a right-wing nationalist, has called for a “strong Japan” and a “strong military”. Although he has not openly supported the building of nuclear weapons, he has called for the restarting of Japan’s nuclear industry, which was largely shut down after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

While Japan has up until now eschewed the nuclear option and maintained its respect for the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency, if it decides to invest efforts into acquiring nuclear weapons it will do so in defiance of the nuclear non-proliferation regime that currently stands imperiled.

It would potentially face international sanctions for doing so, but it should be able to absorb the costs of these. In fact, in light of a hostile and erratic North Korea, Tokyo may deem it as a price worth paying.

Full article: Tokyo, Seoul hold ‘ugly’ nuclear option (Asia Times)

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