Photo/Illutration Ichiro Matsui, leader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Opposition Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) said Japan should discuss “sharing” the possession of nuclear weapons and reassess its long-held three non-nuclear principles in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Osaka-based party will submit its emergency proposals to the government on March 2.

The proposals said that one lesson learned from Russia’s full-scale military assault on Ukraine is that “a non-nuclear-weapons state is at higher risk of being invaded by a nuclear state.”

The conservative party said the Japanese government should no longer regard the topic of possessing nuclear weapons as taboo, and it should start debate on sharing possession of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

On Feb. 28, party leader Ichiro Matsui suggested a rethink was needed for the three non-nuclear principles of not possessing, not producing and not permitting the introduction to Japan of nuclear weapons.

He told reporters that Japan should not insist on sticking with the values of a bygone era when a nuclear power is now waging war.

Nippon Ishin also softened its long-held stance that nuclear power stations should be “phased out.” Its proposals said Japan “needs to consider resuming operations (of nuclear power plants) under certain conditions” to ensure a stable supply of energy.

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe brought up the “nuclear sharing” topic during a TV program aired by Fuji Television Network Inc. on Feb. 27, three days after Russia started its invasion.

Abe said the shared possession of nuclear weapons should be discussed as an option for Japan to defend its territory and people.

NATO’s nuclear deterrence concept includes deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in certain European member nations for when they might need them.

However, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida rejected Abe’s idea at a meeting of the Upper House Budget Committee on Feb. 28.

“Considering our country’s position to adhere to the three non-nuclear principles, we can’t accept (nuclear sharing),” Kishda said.

Kishida reiterated his position in a meeting of the same committee on March 2, citing not only Japan’s adherence to the three non-nuclear principles but also legislation including the Atomic Energy Basic Law, which stipulates that nuclear power should be used only for peaceful purposes.

Nippon Ishin made significant gains in the Lower House election in October last year, becoming the third largest party in the Diet chamber.

A senior official of Nippon Ishin said the party’s latest proposals are intended to attract voters ahead of the Upper House election this summer who are not happy with Kishida’s unwillingness to reassess the non-nuclear principles.

Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of the Democratic Party for the People, another opposition party, said at a March 1 news conference that Japan should discuss the appropriateness of the principle of “not permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons.”

“Japan cannot accept nuclear submarines or warships loaded with submarine-launched ballistic missiles at its ports even in emergencies,” Tamaki said. “If so, will the (U.S.) nuclear deterrence strategy really work?

“We should properly discuss how strictly Japan should adhere to the principles when the security environment is changing.”

However, he did not go so far as to support the idea of nuclear sharing.

“(Nuclear sharing) means deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Japan and using them within the country in the case of being invaded,” Tamaki said. “We need to carefully consider whether that’s realistic or not.”

(This article was written by Taro Kotegawa and Tamiyuki Kihara.)