Magazine article Arms Control Today

Japanese Aide's Comments on Nuclear Policy Spark Controversy

Magazine article Arms Control Today

Japanese Aide's Comments on Nuclear Policy Spark Controversy

Article excerpt

ON MAY 31, a senior Japanese official suggested that Tokyo could revise its longstanding policy of forswearing nuclear weapons but was forced to issue a retraction after his remarks provoked widespread condemnation.

Speaking to reporters, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said that "in the face of calls to amend the [no-war provisions of the Japanese] constitution, the amendment of the principles is also possible," according to Japan's Kyodo News Agency.

Fukuda was referring to Japan's three non-nuclear principles, which state that Tokyo will never produce, possess, or allow nuclear weapons on its territory. These principles were set out in the late 1960s by then-- Prime Minister Eisaku Sato and have been subsequently endorsed by successive Japanese governments.

Fukada did not allow reporters to quote him by name, but harsh domestic criticism to his comments fueled by opposition leaders forced Fukuda to claim responsibility for and to back away from the initially anonymous remarks. "I only said there is a chance the government could take another look at the three non-nuclear principles in the future," Fukuda clarified on June 3, according to The New York Times. "There is absolutely no chance that this cabinet will discuss revising these principles," he added.

During a June 10 parliamentary session, Fukuda told Japanese lawmakers that his "remarks did not indicate the government's future policy" and that he was not advocating a review of the principles, Kyodo News reported. At that session, Prime Minister junichiro Koizumi also made clear that his government did not support revising the non-nuclear principles, saying there would be "no change" in its policy on the issue. …

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