Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

If Japan goes nuclear, should India welcome the decision?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Japan's national security strategy, India- Japan relations



  • Japan’s National Security Strategy released in December is a remarkable document. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s assertive rise, and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK-North Korea) provocations are listed as key developments creating for Japan the most severe and complex security environment since the end of the Second World War.

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What are Japan’s new concerns?

  • Chinese increasing military power: Unconstrained by bilateral or multilateral agreements, Chinese military power is noted as growing exponentially. In less than a decade, the Chinese nuclear arsenal would match numbers currently held by the US and Russia. Expectations are low that the US would have the will or the capacity to bring China to the arms control table.
  • DPRK is riding a runaway proliferation train: Having shaken off all the limits to its nuclear programme it pretended to accept during the Trump Administration, its nuclear programme is perhaps now unstoppable.
  • The inadequacy of its current defence posture and its military alliance with the US: As underlined by the document, extended deterrence including nuclear weapons is the cornerstone of the US-Japan alliance. Its success until now allowed Japan the luxury of its three nuclear no’s policy no production, possession, or introduction of nuclear weapons on its territory.


What worries Japan in its future adequacy and the options

  • The stated option: The National Security Strategy calls for Japan to strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of its alliance with the US, including extended deterrence by the US, backed by its full range of capabilities, including nuclear.
  • Possibility trends of nuclear-sharing by Japan: The unstated part is the possibility of nuclear-sharing by Japan. If implemented, this may be new to Asia but is a long-standing US practice with its key NATO allies in Europe. US willingness to share nuclear-powered submarines with Australia as part of AUKUS is an indicator of possible trends.
  • Possibility of Japan itself acquiring nuclear weapons: The document makes no reference to this. But there are references to the US – in Japan’s view the world’s greatest comprehensive power finding it increasingly difficult to maintain a free and open international order. Behind Japanese politeness, the message is clear.
  • Strategic autonomy in Japanese style: Significantly, the document adds that Japan would seek to strengthen its defence capabilities to the point at which Japan is able to take primary responsibility for its defence, without excluding support from the US.


How India should view this development?

  • If Japan goes nuclear, India should welcome the decision: In our separate ways, India and Japan privileged nuclear disarmament as a priority. But there comes a time when this national preference must be subordinated to the demands of national security.
  • Understanding the reason: India reached this conclusion reluctantly but with good reason in 1998. If Japan were to reach the same conclusion, it too would have good reason to do so.
  • Ensuring self-defence capabilities and Upholding the sovereignty: Its technological capabilities are not in doubt. It is for Japan to exercise its inherent and inalienable right of ensuring the necessary means of self-defence. Thinking the unthinkable in terms of changing policy is an attribute of sovereignty, not its negation.

Way ahead

  • Japan’s turn towards an explicit nuclear option will come, if at all, not out of choice but out of necessity.
  • Its strategic predicament, laid bare by the document, is compounded by the lack of easy answers, a predicament that India should view with sympathy and understanding of a fellow Asian country.
  • Japan is also a strong supporter of the NPT, and its derivative non-proliferation regime but it is also painfully aware that the NPT does precious little to constrain China, nor for that matter DPRK.
  • The gap between Japan’s security needs in a nuclearized world and its non-nuclear public sentiment was papered over in the past by US extended deterrence. It looks less likely that will be the case in the future.


  • A multipolar Indo-Pacific can be truly multipolar only if Japan is assured of national defence through the means of its choosing. As a strategic partner and friend, we must keep faith that Japan will make the right decision at the right time.

Mains question

Q. Recently Japan released its National security strategy. In this backdrop discuss what concerns Japan and how India should view this development?

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