01/23 Understanding Japan’s Nuclear Dilemma - Dr Manpreet Sethi - Distinguished Fellow, CAPS
18 January 2023
Visiting ground zero, hearing from the hibakushas (survivors of the atomic bombing) on what they were doing on the morning of August 6, 1945, and engaging with the Japanese youth and civil society, who appealed to the members to show courage in identifying bold steps for the elimination of nuclear weapons, added a sombre dimension to the deliberations. [...] However, the lack of progress on disarmament by the nuclear weapon states (NWS) recognised by the NPT has resulted in a situation where strained geopolitical relations have made nuclear buildup, not disarmament, the order of the day. [...] Pyongyang’s continued nuclear and missile buildup and the lack of progress on the part of the USA, South Korea, and Japan to handle the challenge cause worries in Japan. [...] This is forcing Tokyo to balance a pacifist constitution and a desire for eventual nuclear disarmament with the compulsion of military enhancements, including through US affirmations of an “unwavering commitment to the defense of Japan, including… by the full range of conventional and nuclear capabilities.” It may be recalled that India, too, faced a somewhat similar dilemma in the 1980s and 1990s. [...] The belief was strengthened when the CTBT, in 1996, accepted the rights of the NWS to undertake non- explosive nuclear tests to hone their nuclear arsenals while binding others to a ban on nuclear testing.