Revisions to Japanese Atomic Law Cause Worry Over Possible Weapons Aim

Recent modifications to Japan's national atomic energy act include the insertion of "national security" as an aim of the law, causing consternation in some quarters that the language could be used as a legal basis for the nation to create a nuclear weapons program in the future, the Korea Herald reported on Thursday (see GSN, Feb. 13).

"The safe use of atomic power is aimed at contributing to the protection of the people's lives, health and property, environmental conservation and national security," reads the new amendment to the Atomic Energy Basic Act.

The law provides a bureaucratic and governance framework for Japan's civilian atomic sector. Lawmakers in the upper house of parliament approved the change on Wednesday, according to Japanese news reports.

The new wording of the amendment was introduced by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party during open-floor discussion. The language drew quick fire from antinuclear advocates, scientists and academics. 

"We cannot rule out the possibility of practical military use," said the Committee of Seven for World Peace, a group of public intellectuals. "The amendment harmed the national interest and is a source of calamity."

The Japanese government's chief cabinet secretary, Osamu Fujimura, on Thursday dismissed accusations of a scheme to open a door for nuclear weapons development.

"Japan has never wavered in its commitment to the peaceful use of atomic power and the three non-nuclear principles," the official said, referring to Tokyo's self-imposed commitment against the development, stockpiling or presence of nuclear weapons anywhere on Japanese territory. "The government has no goal at all for its military use."

The South Korean government said it was "closely weighing the revision's potential impact and closely watching progress" in Japan on the matter.

"In principle, it would not be easy for Japan to transform into a nuclear-armed country as mentioned in some news reports given its membership in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty," South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Han Hye-jin said to reporters (Shin Hyon-hee, Korea Herald, June 21).

"Beijing already has nuclear weapons and Pyongyang allegedly has one too," Korea National Diplomatic Academy professor Jo Yang-hyeon said in a Korea Times report. "This can fuel ongoing discussion in Japan about nuclear arms."

Jo characterized the move by the Japanese parliament as a "signal to China and North Korea that Japan could also go nuclear as well" (Chung Min-uck, Korea Times, June 21).

June 22, 2012
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Recent modifications to Japan's national atomic energy act include the insertion of "national security" as an aim of the law, causing consternation in some quarters that the language could be used as a legal basis for the nation to create a nuclear weapons program in the future, the Korea Herald reported on Thursday.

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