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In Japan, Provocative Case for Staying Nuclear via The Wall Street Journal

Some Say Bombs’ Potential as Deterrent Argues for Keeping Power Plants Online

TOKYO—Many of Japan’s political and intellectual leaders remain committed to nuclear power even as Japanese public opinion has turned sharply against it. One argument in favor rarely gets a public airing: Japan needs to maintain its technical ability to make nuclear bombs.

“I don’t think Japan needs to possess nuclear weapons, but it’s important to maintain our commercial reactors because it would allow us to produce a nuclear warhead in a short amount of time,” Shigeru Ishiba, a former defense minister, said in an interview in a recent edition of Sapio, a right-leaning twice-monthly magazine.

“It’s a tacit nuclear deterrent,” added Mr. Ishiba, an influential parliament member who made similar remarks on a prime time television news show in August while serving as policy chief of Japan’s main opposition party.

Instead of sparking an outcry, his remarks seem to have stimulated further consideration of their merits. The Yomiuri newspaper, Japan’s largest-circulation daily, urged the government to stay the course on nuclear power in an editorial last month, stressing that the country’s stockpile of plutonium gives it diplomatic leverage.”As Japan has worked to strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime through the peaceful use of nuclear power, the nation is permitted to use plutonium that can be used as material for nuclear weapons. In fact, this also functions diplomatically as a potential nuclear deterrent.” the paper said.

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