Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 08:52 | SYDNEY
Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 08:52 | SYDNEY

Nuclear Japan: A solution in search of a problem


Sam Roggeveen


17 July 2008 12:20

I can go along with Hugh White's argument as far as to agree that, in order to create a sustainable regional order, Japan may have to ease its dependence on US extended nuclear deterrence. But I'm blowed if I can understand why that means Japan must itself acquire nuclear weapons.

As Hugh says in his latest post on this subject, 'the only legitimate purpose for a Japanese nuclear capability would be to provide an independent minimal deterrent of nuclear attack on its own territory'. But if that's the only purpose, I doubt Japan would suffer much harm in foregoing such a capability. 

It would mean that, on some level, Japan would be at the mercy of China's nuclear weapons, with no means to strike back. But how would that damage Japan in practical terms, and how would it materially profit China to have this advantage over Japan? It would surely only be relevant if China was at existensial threat from a Japanese invasion, which seems pretty unlikely. Equally, a Japanese nuclear deterrent would be useful if China invaded, but again, that seems pretty remote, and as Crispin pointed out, it is a threat Japan can deter with conventional forces.

There are any number of countries that manage to maintain their sovereignty and have constructive relations with nuclear-armed rivals without themselves relying on either extended deterrence from an ally or an indigenous nuclear deterrent. Why couldn't Japan do this?