Tokyo hinted on Friday that it could permit the basing of U.S. nuclear weapons on Japanese territory in the event of a serious threat to its national security.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in a briefing to lawmakers sketched out specific exceptions under which the country's longstanding principles against the development, hosting and possession of nuclear arms could be partially set aside, Kyodo News reported.
Kishida said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration follows the policy of its predecessor, which is that continued adherence to the non-nuclear principles when there is a threat to the Japanese public's safety "depends on the decision of the administration in power."
"The future cannot be determined in advance," Kishida said, referring to comments made by former Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, who during his tenure also hinted that U.S. nuclear warheads could be allowed into Japan in a crisis situation.
The former governing Democratic Party of Japan in 2010 revealed a decades-old bilateral understanding with the United States that permitted nuclear-armed U.S. submarines to make port calls at the Okinawa military base in apparent violation of Tokyo's principle against the basing of atomic weapons. That tacit agreement is understood to have been retired in the early 1990s, with the end of the Cold War.