Japan is fully capable of building a nuclear weapon but this should not be taken to mean it will do so, the country’s foreign minister has said.
Taro Aso told a parliamentary committee on Thursday: “Japan is capable of producing nuclear weapons, but we are not saying we have plans to possess nuclear weapons.”
Aso said the government would stick to Japan’s decades-long policy of not possessing, developing or introducing nuclear weapons to its shores, despite neighbour North Korea’s testing of a nuclear bomb on October 9, which has raised security concerns around the region.
Aso, though, reiterated his previous calls for greater debate on Japan’s non-nuclear stance. He said the constitution’s pacifist clause does not prevent Japan from possessing nuclear bombs for defence purposes.
“Possession of minimum level of arms for defence is not prohibited under Article 9 of the constitution,” he said. “Even nuclear weapons, if there are any that fall within that limit, they are not prohibited.”
Aso has said that in light of North Korea’s test, “it’s only natural to discuss how we should cope with the changing environment around us”.
However, Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, has asserted several times since the North Korean test that Japan would not stray from its non-nuclear policy. He has refused to commence a formal review of the stance.
Nuclear energy accounts for about 30 per cent of Japan’s energy production.