Japan needs US nuclear weapons for defense – top general

Tokyo can’t protect itself without Washngton’s “nuclear umbrella,” a senior military official said

Japan must develop its domestic arms sector if it is to provide for its own security, a top Japanese general has said, arguing that Tokyo currently relies on American nuclear weapons for “deterrence” against regional rivals.

Speaking to Nikkei Asia for an interview on Monday, General Yoshihide Yoshida, the chief of the Joint Staff for Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, outlined Tokyo’s defense needs, highlighting its close military cooperation with Washington.

“We cannot maintain Japan’s security with our current capabilities,” the general said, adding “First, we must fundamentally strengthen our defensive capabilities so that we are not underestimated. Second, we need to do what we can to sustain extended deterrence, including through strategies involving US nuclear weapons.”

Yoshida went on to explain that Japan has engaged in “deep dialogue” with the United States for more than a decade on “extending the US nuclear umbrella over Japan,” noting that a deal was struck in June for additional information-sharing, joint training and joint missile response.

Japan is the only nation in history to have been targeted with atomic weapons. A US Army Air Force bomber dropped a nuclear bomb over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, killing up to 126,000 people, most of them civilians. Another atomic bomb was detonated over the city of Nagasaki on August 9, killing up to 80,000 people, almost all of whom were civilians.

In the aftermath of the nuclear bombings, Japan has become an ally of the US after American forces occupied its territory and wrote its “pacifist” constitution. The country still hosts the highest number of US bases and troops in the world, and has also long been under America’s nuclear umbrella – or a series of US security guarantees to non-nuclear states. South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and several NATO members also enjoy similar agreements.

General Yoshida argued that Japan is “on the front lines” in the Indo-Pacific, stating that Tokyo and its partners would work to “maintain an international order based on the rule of law” while warning of “provocations by North Korea and China.” He added that the “strategic environment facing Japan” is driving public support for increased military spending and better “counterstrike capabilities.”

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