Trump’s remarks about Asia cause bewilderment, unease in Japan
The Asahi Shimbun March 30, 2016
Donald Trump’s calls to overhaul the Japan-U.S. security alliance have agitated Japanese government officials, and one local leader is now urging debate on the Republican Party front-runner’s suggestion that Japan arm itself with nuclear weapons.
Government officials said a possible Trump presidency would fundamentally change the course of U.S. diplomacy with Asia and could force Japan to rethink its diplomatic principles to strengthen the alliance.
During his campaign, the real estate mogul has said the alliance is unfair to the United States. And in an interview with a U.S. daily on March 26, Trump again made clear his intention to drastically reduce the U.S. military presence in Japan, adding that he would allow Japan to possess nuclear weapons as a deterrent to North Korea.
“It seems he only has experts on Middle East affairs and terrorism-related issues among his diplomatic brain trust but no analyst specializing in Asian matters,” a Foreign Ministry official said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a news conference on March 29 that it would be “improper” to comment on Trump’s remarks at this point.
However, Foreign Ministry officials have been analyzing Trump’s policies and intentions regarding Japan-U.S. relations since he became the GOP front-runner in early March.
Although the officials said they believe Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton would defeat Trump if the two faced off in the presidential election in November, they cannot rule out a Trump victory.
Trump’s remarks have already sparked a reaction within the political circles in Japan.
Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui, who heads the Osaka Ishin no Kai regional party, called on Diet members to promptly discuss whether Japan needs nuclear weapons.
“Trump has questioned the validity of the current Japan-U.S. alliance,” Matsui said. “We may already need to start debate on whether we should keep staying away from nuclear weapons or have them as a deterrent.”
The governor added that if Japan decides to develop military capabilities to defend itself on its own, it will need the “ultimate weapons.”
“I believe it is already high time, particularly for the Diet members, to start serious discussions on this issue,” he added.
(Ryutaro Abe contributed to this article.)
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