Pacific Media Watch

28 August 2015

REGION: New Japanese weapons bill stirs nuclear anxiety in the Pacific

Asia Pacific Journalism’s Niklas Pedersen reports on a controversial new Japanese piece of legislation. Video: APJ

Niklas Pedersen
AUCKLAND (Pacific Scoop/Pacific Media Watch): A new bill due to be passed by Japan’s diet next month could counteract the longstanding Japanese opposition against nuclear weapons.

Japan’s Defence Minister, Gen Nakatani, said that the bill would formally allow the military to transport nuclear weapons of foreign forces.

This proposition goes against one of the three non-nuclear principles of Japan, which states that the country shall not possess, manufacture or let nuclear weapons be transported on their soil.

“This is a pretty dramatic change. Allowing nuclear weapons into Japan reverses the policy of the last half century,” said Associate Professor in Politics and International Relations at Auckland University, Dr Stephen Hoadley.

The bill passed the lower chamber of the Japanese diet last month despite public outcry and demands from the opposition to scrap it.

For some countries the foreign policy development in Japan is more troubling than others. The Pacific Islands have had a tempestuous history with nuclear weapons and commentators say a new stance from Japan could make those feelings come rushing back.

‘Great concern’
“This is an issue of great concern to the [Pacific] region, given that so many nuclear tests were conducted in the Pacific,” said Asia-Pacific Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Tim Wright.

Associate Professor Steven Hoadley pointed out that especially the republic of Kiribati and the French Polynesian islands as two nations could fear a possibly more aggressive Japanese nuclear policy given their proximity to nuclear test zones.

“They will be concerned that a renewal of any nuclear capability might result in future tests,” he said.

There are still 15.000 nuclear weapons left in the world. 1800 of them are on high alert and are ready to be launched with few seconds notice.

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