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Diet’s DPJ members surface anti-US nuclear positions

Date Posted: 2009-10-15

A large number of Lower House members with Democratic Party of Japan affiliations are staking out positions calling for Japan to withdraw from beneath the U.S. nuclear umbrella, while a few of its members think just the opposite, that the U.S. nuclear umbrella should be strengthened and Japan’s positions be reviewed in light of its North Korean neighbor’s bellicose behavior.

Only 68.5% of the Lower House members—211 of the 308 members—responded to the Kyodo News survey, which was surveying thoughts and attitudes about Japan’s dependence on the American nuclear arsenal for protection. Roughly 61% thought Japan should get out from under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, with 2.8% calling for immediate action while 58.3% think it should happen in the near future.

On the other hand, 28.4% of the DPJ members in the Lower House said Japan should remain in its present circumstance, receiving U.S. nuclear protection. Those members, and a few others, think the relationship with the U.S. and its nuclear protections should be beefed up in light of security threats posed by North Korea, which on Monday launched a new salvo of missiles. DPJ members indicated Japan should review its three non-nuclear principles—not possessing, producing or allowing nuclear weapons on its territory—and begin a new dialogue on what’s best for Japanese defense policy.

On one point survey respondents were firm; 87.2% want the United States to dump its first-strike option. Many DPJ lawmakers indicated they’d like to come up with a new Japanese national security policy that doesn’t rely on America for all its protection. Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada wants the U.S. to end its first-strike posture, arguing nuclear weapons would be less a part of countries’ military programs if America didn’t keep everybody on their toes because of its pre-emptive nuclear strikes plans.

The question facing lawmakers is whether enough DPJ support could be mustered to overthrow the decades-old defense programs and agreements now in place. The Liberal Democratic Party, which governed Japan for more than five decades, except for a few brief months, have staunchly supported having the American nuclear umbrella as at the core of Japan’s defense.

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