China reacted angrily to calls from influential former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for Tokyo to consider hosting US nuclear weapons following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and concern growth caused by the Chinese aggression against Taiwan.
Abe, who presided over record defense budgets before stepping down in 2020, said Japan should lift taboos surrounding its possession of nuclear weapons after the outbreak of war in Europe.
“In NATO, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy are involved in nuclear sharing, hosting US nuclear weapons,” Abe said in a TV interview, according to Nikkei Asia. “We need to understand how security is maintained around the world and not consider it taboo to have an open discussion.
“We must firmly consider various options when talking about how we can protect Japan and the lives of its people in this reality.”
Japan, the only country to have been attacked with nuclear weapons, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is part of the US nuclear umbrella but has for a decade adhered to the three non-nuclear principles – which it will not produce or possess nuclear weapons or will not allow them on its territory.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida quickly dismissed Abe’s call for a debate on the nuclear sharing option. “This is unacceptable given our country’s position of upholding the three non-nuclear principles,” Kishida, who represents a constituency in Hiroshima, told MPs this week.
Wang Wenbin, spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, told reporters in Beijing: “Japanese politicians have frequently spread Taiwan-related lies and even made blatantly false remarks that violate the three non-nuclear principles of the nation.
“We urge Japan to think deeply about its history,” Wang added, and warned Tokyo to “be careful in words and deeds on the Taiwan issue to stop causing trouble.”
Sous Abe, a conservative whose lifelong political ambition is to overhaul Japan’s “pacifist” constitution, said any conflict involving China and Taiwan would also be an emergency for Japan.
He called on the United States to end its “ambiguity” over the defense of Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province, noting that the island is only 110 km from Yonaguni, the inhabited island the westernmost of Japan.
“The United States adopts a strategy of ambiguity, which means that it may or may not intervene militarily if Taiwan is attacked,” Abe said. “By showing that it can intervene, it keeps China under control, but by leaving open the possibility that it does not intervene, it ensures that the Taiwanese independence forces do not get out of control.”
Abe, leader of the largest faction of the ruling Liberal Democrats in Kishida, has made several hawkish interventions on security policy that enjoy support within the party but could provoke a backlash among voters worried about Japan’s potential involvement in regional conflicts.
Chinese tabloid Global Times accused Abe of trying to “unlock” Japanese militarism. “It is not only ironic, but also a huge real risk, that a group of people in the only country in the world that has been bombarded by atomic bombs would call to invite the culprit to deploy nuclear weapons on its own territory” , he said in an editorial.