Friday, December 01, 2006

Japan Says It Can Build Nuclear Bomb, (But Won’t )

Japan has the technological know-how to produce a nuclear weapon but has no immediate plans to do so, the foreign minister said Thursday, several weeks after communist North Korea carried out a nuclear test. Foreign Minister Taro Aso, who has called for discussion of Japan’s non-nuclear policy, also asserted that the pacifist constitution does not forbid possession of the bomb. “Japan is capable of producing nuclear weapons,” Aso told a parliamentary committee on security issues. “But we are not saying we have plans to possess nuclear weapons.” Japan, the only country ever attacked by atomic weapons, has for decades espoused a strict policy of not possessing, developing or allowing the introduction of nuclear bombs on its territory.The non-nuclear stance, however, has come under increasing scrutiny since North Korea’s Oct. 9 nuclear test, which raised severe security concerns in Japan. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has asserted several times since the test that Japan would not stray from its non-nuclear policy, and he has refused to initiate a formal review of that stance. Several high-ranking government and ruling party members, however, including Aso, have argued for a high-level reappraisal of the nuclear policy in light of the North Korean threat. In a hearing before the lower house of parliament’s Security Committee, Aso reiterated his belief that the constitution’s pacifist clause does not prevent Japan from having nuclear bombs for the purpose of defense.