Bloomberg Op-Ed: Was Trump Right About Japan And Nukes?

Bloomberg’s op-ed editors proposed a rearming of Japan in a Wednesday-published article, inviting readers to contemplate a change to Japan’s post-WWII demilitarization.

North Korea’s Tuesday launch of a missile over Japan prompted Bloomberg to begin its consideration.

Japan’s post-WWII constitution forbade the state from militarization or war-making, a feature introduced with American oversight during America’s occupation of the Pacific archipelago between 1945 and 1952.

While Bloomberg’s editors stop short of advocating for Japan to procure nuclear weapons, they do contemplate Japan’s acquisition of improved defensive and offensive military technologies — including possibly necessary constitutional changes toward those ends.

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump regularly suggested that a change to Japan’s demilitarized status quo might serve the American national interest; including comments he made during a “presidential town hall” event with CNN in March of 2016:

Now, wouldn’t you rather in a certain sense have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons? And they do have them. They absolutely have them. They can’t — they have no carrier system yet but they will very soon.

Wouldn’t you rather have Japan, perhaps, they’re over there, they’re very close, they’re very fearful of North Korea, and we’re supposed to protect.

Trump made similar suggestions in an March 2016 interview with The New York Times:

Would I rather have North Korea have them with Japan sitting there having them also? You may very well be better off if that’s the case. In other words, where Japan is defending itself against North Korea, which is a real problem. You very well may have a better case right there.

Op-ed writers have echoed Trump; “Japan: Go Nuclear Now,” argues a January-published op-ed at Forbes:

Japan needs nuclear weapons. Surrounded by authoritarian threats, including Russia, China, and China’s close ally, North Korea, Japan would make all democracies safer by protecting itself with a nuclear weapon. A stronger Japan will check China’s expansion and free U.S. military resources for deployment elsewhere.

Assorted news media figures pushed back against arming Japan with nuclear weapons; CNN’s Anderson Cooper described such a move as “proliferation,” and equivalent to nuclearization of Saudi Arabia. The Washington Post similarly framed generalized “proliferation” as undermining national security.

Trump regularly criticized the status quo of military defense arrangements between the U.S. and its allies across his presidential campaign, framing states under America’s defensive shield as free riders on the backs of American taxpayers.

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