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Cooperative Security, Arms Control and Disarmament Policy Brief  No.11 - April, 2018

Conceptual Twist of Japanese Nuclear Policy: Its Ambivalence and Coherence Under the US Umbrella

Despite its anti-nuclear weapon declaratory-policy,“Three Non-Nuclear Principles,” Japan has enjoyed the protection of the nuclear umbrella provided by the United States for more than 60 years. This bilateral nuclear arrangement has established and cherished a strong bond between the two nations, which the author calls “the US–Japan Nuclear Alliance.” This unique politico-military alliance, backed by US nuclear forces, has brought about a “conceptual twist” of Japanese security policy related to nuclear weapons. The twist can be analysed in terms of two characteristic elements: ambivalence and coherence. This twist is a result of several factors, including Japan’s unprecedented experience of the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, Japan’s anti-nuclear public sentiment, the Japanese security policy discourse delineated by Cold War strategies of the US, and Tokyo’s acceptance of the US nuclear umbrella. These factors have forced Japanese conservative governments, including the current Abe administration, to perform Nuclear Kabuki Play resulting from the ambivalence and coherence that characterize Japan’s security policy. Abe’s opposition to a No First Use (NFU) policy and Japan’s calibrated approach to the newly adopted nuclear weapon ban treaty are closely associated with Japanese ambivalence and coherence toward nuclear weapons and related security issues.