Japan Should Consider Sharing American Nuclear Weapons - Former PM Shinzo Abe

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for his country’s armed forces to consider a nuclear sharing agreement with the United States, stressing that fielding nuclear weapons should no longer be a taboo subject for Tokyo. 

This would mirror the NATO nuclear sharing program, which not only allows the United States to deploy nuclear weapons to the territory of European states, but also allows these states to decide how they can be used, train to employ them, and acquire weapons systems for nuclear delivery that could be armed with American nuclear warheads in their countries should war break out. 

This has long been slammed as a bending if not direct violation of non-proliferation agreements. Japan’s three non-nuclear principles laid out in 1967 call for it not to possess, produce or allow nuclear weapons on its territory, although the spirit of the latter has been secretly violated in the past.

 The United States notably previously deployed extensive nuclear assets to Okinawa until the 1970s, as the territory was under direct American military rule. As prime minister, Abe was a leading proponent of militarising Japan and restoring offensive capabilities within the context of providing further support to allied Western powers in East Asia and beyond. 

Abe’s statement comes as Japan moves towards the development of long-range cruise missiles capable of offensive strikes, and just days after it was announced that options for preemptive strikes would be considered under Japanese military doctrine - a step wholly unprecedented since the imperial era of the 1940s. 

This could pave the way for an eventual preemptive nuclear strike doctrine, which would be by far the most assertive in the region as China, North Korea, and India all have no first use doctrines for their nuclear arsenals. The statement also follows a deep shift in Japan’s Air Self Defence Force away from a focus on air superiority and air defense and towards a greater focus of strike missions and penetration of enemy airspace.

 This is perhaps best exemplified by the retirement of F-15 fighters in favour of F-35s, the former which is well optimised for air to air combat while the latter was designed primarily for strike missions with advanced stealth capabilities to facilitate it. The F-35 is notably capable of delivering nuclear bombs, and Japan’s fleet of over 100 which is currently on order could thus play a central role in a nuclear sharing agreement. 

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