After the Trump-Kim summit: Where does Japan go from here?

July 12, 2018
Masako Toki

The following is an excerpt from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Less than one year ago, President Donald Trump threatened to unleash “fire and fury” against North Korea, implying the possible use of nuclear weapons. This inflammatory rhetoric alarmed the world—especially the countries of East Asia. Trump’s threats were particularly upsetting to people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, because his tweets came on the 72nd anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, the second and (hopefully) last city to experience catastrophic nuclear devastation. Memories of the effects of the atomic bombs dropped on these two cities in the first week of August 1945 have instilled a deep public abhorrence in Japan toward any use of nuclear weapons, anywhere.

Japan’s pacifist constitution is derived directly from such wartime experience, which led Japan to uphold an exclusively defense-oriented security policy while heavily relying on protection by the United States.

That does not leave Japan with many options in handling the situation with North Korea. Japan can conduct civilian evacuation drills, which indeed it started last year—even though many of the Japanese people harbor deep skepticism over the effectiveness of such drills, according to media reports. And Japan has been continuing to strengthen its anti-missile defense capabilities in cooperation with the United States (although this, too, draws some degree of skepticism over its effectiveness among Japanese people).

Meanwhile, North Korea has been fanning Japan’s nuclear fears, repeatedly testing its missiles by flying them over Japan or having them land in the adjacent Sea of Japan. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe publicly characterized North Korea’s actions as reaching a “new level” of concern.

That drove Japan to desperately seek to ensure strong a US commitment to Japan’s security in the form of the US nuclear umbrella, and US conventional armed forces.

Which ultimately means relying on… Donald Trump.

Continue reading at Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

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