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Rice promises to defend Japan from North Korea

October 18th, 2006 . by Darin

Just caught this before I head to bed, and thought I’d pass it along.

Rice promises to defend Japan from North Korea [Telegraph]

Condoleezza Rice warned North Korea today that America would use the “full range” of its military powers if Pyongyang launched a nuclear strike on Japan.

“I want to make sure that everybody understands that the US will fully act on our defence obligations under the mutual defence treaty,” said Ms Rice. “The United States has the will and the capability to meet the full range, and I underscore the full range, of its deterrence and security commitment to Japan.”

Japan’s policy is not to have nuclear missiles, develop them or allow them on Japanese soil. However, some of its leaders have now concluded that they should at least be willing to consider the nuclear option.

Japan has a large nuclear power industry and it is believed it would be able to build nuclear weapons within a matter of months. But some believe talk of a nuclear weapon is designed to reassure a nervous public that Japan has options beyond America to defend itself.

I bolded the last line because that’s something I’ve never heard before, but I guess it could make sense. Does anyone think that’s the case?

9 Responses to “Rice promises to defend Japan from North Korea”

  1. comment number 1 by: popper

    I don’t think so. I suppose Nakagawa, a party cadre, is a hawk and not negative about nuclear options if possible.Besides these remarks are designed not only to elicit assuring comments by US administration, but also to prompt resolute reactions by China and South Korea to recent nuclear test.

  2. comment number 2 by: tomato


    Well, I think that is the point. Trying to appease the public.

    However, whether such an approach would work is another issue. Going nuclear is still very much a minority opinion in Japan. And believe it or not, the majority opinion in Japan is more afraid of creating the impression that Japan is a threat to surrounding countries than actual foreign threats against Japan (maybe this is changing a little bit because of the hawkish, nationalistic countries that surround Japan today, but I would say only a little bit). I guess this comes from the self-awareness that Japan is a commercial power dependent on peaceful trade. China and SK are major customers of Japanese goods.

    I would like to note that I hear the opinion of “Japan-should-go-nuclear” more from the Americans than I hear it from the Japanese.

  3. comment number 3 by: Two Cents

    It’s probably a message to China from the Abe-Bush & Aso-Rice lines – “If you don’t start putting serious pressure on NK, the US just might back up a nuclear Japan. Now, you wouldn’t want that, would you?”

    There is still quite a bit of spinal-reflex allergy to nuclear weapons among the Japanese public, and although a statement like the one Nakagawa made no longer results in instant dismissals of cabinet members, I think the “appeasing the public” effect is not the real motive. While I think there are many Japanese who feel that the nuclear option should be considered and, at the least, debated openly, I still think that an equally large number of people would not want our government to even consider such a move. It may be that our politicians are becoming more pragmatic, though. Ishiba said in his book, “the job of a politician is not to heed to every demand made by the public, but also to make the public accept some hard-to-swallow reality.” Maybe more people in the LDP feel the same way.

    However, I disagree with popper that Nakagawa being a hawk would necessitate his favoring a nuclear Japan. Japan presently has the resources and technology to make a nuclear weapon. We also have a certain level of experience in rocket technology with our space program, thanks to the Ron-Yasu era during which our nuclear energy and space programs were heavily promoted. That’s why you hear many domestic & foreign journalist saying that, technologically, Japan could go nuclear whenever she pleases. That fact alone can be used as a diplomatic card against China. China who currently has a bunch of nuclear missles targeted at Japan definitely does not want Japan to go nuclear since it wants to keep the upper hand in that, and Japan, at this point, does not have to as long as the US will keep her under the US umbrella. If we go nuclear, we might lose a card that could be used more effectively in the future.

    I have also heard some people say that Japan cannot go nuclear so easily because we have no land to conduct a test. Such opinions have made me wonder, does Japan need to? The principle behind the nuclear deterrance between states is mutual destruction of both parties involved. A attacks B, B destoys A. Nobody wins. Now, will A attack if B has 80% chance of destroying A? Judging from the foreign media, it seems much of the world believes Japan is capable of developing a nuclear weapon very quickly. Let’s say Japan does build a nuke but does not conduct a test. Would we be considered a nuclear state then? Would an untested nuke be effective as a deterrant? A country like NK has to prove that it has successfully made a nuke, would Japan?

    While I agree that Japan mainly is a merchant state and should not go down the militaristic path, I do believe that too many Japanese take the 60 years of post-WWII peace for granted. Just as Rome flourished under a powerful empire, and Europe-Asia trade boomed in the Mongolian empire, and Japan during the Edo period blossomed culturally under the strict rule of the Tokugawas, Japan’s post-war commercial success was possible becasue of what you could call a Pax-Americana empire. Although that doesn’t mean Japan should fall on its knees in front of the US, I think the Japanese public shoud give a little more credit to the global police role the US has played.

    >I would like to note that I hear the opinion of “Japan-should-go-nuclear” >more from the Americans than I hear it from the Japanese.
    I get the same impression, too.

  4. comment number 4 by: YoungRocco

    Two Cents:

    It’s probably a message to China from the Abe-Bush & Aso-Rice lines – “If you don’t start putting serious pressure on NK, the US just might back up a nuclear Japan. Now, you wouldn’t want that, would you?”

    China is fooling the U.S. into thinking that it fears a nuclear Japan.

    Look at it from a Chinese perspective.

    China’s “strategic rival” has over 50,000 troops stationed in Japan and has a number of tactical warheads already stationed there, some of which are already aimed at China’s most populous cities. With U.S. nuclear warheads already aimed at China, what does it have to fear from Japan?

    In addition, Japan already has a sizeable number of nuclear reactors that have produced 40 tons of processable material that could be used for Nuclear weapons.

    In short, Japan is already a defacto nuclear power.

    On the other hand, just think of what effect a nuclear Japan would have on the U.S. Japan military alliance. Japan would become more assertive with regards to the U.S. and ties would become more strained.

    Bottomline: Japan ceased to be relevant a longtime ago.

    China has its sights set on overtaking the real powerplayer in Northeast Asia: The United States.

  5. comment number 5 by: ponta


    While I understand your desire to play down Japan, and I wish Chinese perception was as you described, I think your view on Northeast Asia is a bit out of touch with reality.

    Look at it from a Chinese perspective.

    With U.S. nuclear warheads already aimed at China, what does it have to fear from Japan?

    Even without U.S. force in Japan, China does not want a war with Japan. it is China that knows the best the potential military power of Japan. You can not understand her protest against Yasukuni and other matters fully if you don’t
    take that into account. (;Compare her attitude toward Japan with that toward England, which insulted and damaged China by Optimum war.)

    In short, Japan is already a de facto nuclear power.

    I agree, and yet the difference is too big to ignore between actually holding nuclear weapon and just potentially holding it. That is why Rice emphasized the U.S. is committed to defending Japan.

    just think of what effect a nuclear Japan would have on the U.S. Japan military alliance. Japan would become more assertive with regards to the U.S. and ties would become more strained.

    I agree, and if that is the case, it is natural to think that nuclear japan could become more assertive over China.
    BTW I think Japan knows who is the best ally and Japan can live best in corporation with USA. That is one reason why Japanese PM denied immediately the need to discuss Japan going nuclear.

    I agree to your view that Chinese ultimate rival is the U.S.

    I think what China wants to do is to separate Japan and other Asian nations from U.S.

    China is succeeding with regards to Korea.


  6. comment number 6 by: jazzman

    I’m not particularly critical of Dr. Rice’s commnet on Japan. She said whatever she could say within her mandate. Her comment was good-intensioned, I guess.

    The real problem is: Will the US truly defend Japan when we were threatened by China/Korea by nukes? OK, this is a hypothetical question and guys in real politics don’t answer that kind of question. So I will present my own opinion here.

    Suppose that Japan had a mutual security treaty with Taiwan. If Taiwan was invaded by mainland China, we would have the obligation to defend Taiwan. But are we going to do that when China threatened to wipe out Tokyo with their nuclear arms ? No, sir.

    We would never try to defend Taiwan with that kind of “gangster-like” threats. Tokyo is dearer to us than Taiwan regardless of any treaty or law. This can be said about the US – Japan security treaty. If US should defend Japan despite the warning by China that NY would disappear from the earth as the result, I would be tremendously surprised .

    Actually nobody in the world would blame the US for not obeying the treaty.

    The very basic nature of any treaty or international law is that you don’t have to abide by that when your own existence is threatened.
    Although it is too early to say anything, Bush is not taking immediate actions to “neutralize” nukes in North Korea. Then we have no other choice but to arm ourselves with our own nukes.

    Also, I would like to point out our latent but very strong resentment about two nukes dropped in Japan: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. More than 300,000 people instantly evaporated. If these are not atrocities, there has never been any atrocitities in human history.

    We are not demanding any apology or any compensation from the US. But If the US said, “OK, we forget the Pearl Harbour, you forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” that would sound very nice and assuring.

    As the result, two nukes actually used in the human history remain unsolved as far as the Japanese are concerened. The US should clarify its attitude on two nukes on Japan. If the US acknowledges certain misunderstanding regarding this matter, Japan can live without nukes. Then the world would be by far the safer place.
    Thank you.

  7. comment number 7 by: ponta

    I think Japan should reserve the every option available including nuclear
    weapon, but my opinion it is not wise to go nuclear risking the alliance with the US.
    Japanese option to survive and prosper is to corporate with USA, Australia, Indonesia, India, etc. It is in the interest for Japan as well as the US. And the more solidarity there are among alliances, the less China wants to attack Japan. However, with nuke but without alliances, I don’t think Japan has possibility to prosper.
    As for the understanding of atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I think many Americans hold it was necessary to make Japan surrender as early as possible so that more people could be saved. I disagree with the view, but let’s leave history to historians and let’s not politicize it. That is my two cents.

  8. comment number 8 by: shadkt

    It is not very beneficial to the Japanese to go nuclear now, but yes
    Japan should reserve the right to go nuclear in the future.
    Just because Japan-US relation is good right now, you really don’t know
    what’s going to happen with the Democrats in office (I heard they’re
    pro-China and anti-Japan).
    Jazzman’s opinion is right. Because N. Korea is relatively a wimp
    country in comparison to the US, if N.Korea attacks Japan, I’m sure
    US will wipe them out. But if it was China, I don’t think US would go
    all out front for the sake of Japan.
    Japan’s future is only securable by Japan. If going nuclear is the only way
    to assure safety of her people, then it is something they must consider.
    In the end, Japan may decided that it is indeed more beneficial to risk
    not going nuclear. Who knows? It’s each country’s risks and responsibilities.

  9. comment number 9 by: GarlicBreath


    Let me ask you a question.

    What if NK nukes tokyo. Will the USA nuke Pyongyang? I suspect that in between celebrations the people in the blue house in seoul will step in and prevent that, and I doutbt the USA has the will to do what is right and nuke Pyongyang.

    What do you think?