Prime Minister Kishida wary of Japan’s acquisition of nuclear submarine

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attends a press conference at his office in Tokyo on June 15, 2022. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida sounded cautious on Sunday over acquiring a nuclear-powered submarine to bolster the country’s defense capability, a call by some opposition parties before next month’s upper house elections.

“I don’t know if making the jump to a nuclear submarine is a good idea,” Kishida said during an appearance on a Fuji TV show with other party leaders. He referred to the difficulty of using nuclear energy for military purposes under Japan’s Atomic Energy Law and the high operating costs.

But Kishida, who leads the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, stressed the need to bolster Japan’s defenses at a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Chinese military assertion have highlighted the Japan’s security issues.

“We will see what needs to be prioritized to protect people’s lives and their livelihoods,” he said.

Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of the LDP’s junior coalition partner Komeito, echoed Kishida’s view, calling the idea of ​​a nuclear-powered submarine “unrealistic”.

Ichiro Matsui, leader of Japan’s Innovation Party, and Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of the People’s Democratic Party, called for the acquisition of a nuclear-powered submarine to enhance deterrence and reconnaissance capability.

Japan “should have an advanced type (of submarine) to increase deterrence,” Matsui said, while Tamaki pointed to the advantage of a nuclear submarine’s ability to stay underwater for long periods of time. months for enhanced surveillance and reconnaissance operations.

Japan embarked on an exclusively defense-oriented policy under the pacifist constitution, and its defense spending was limited to around 1% of gross domestic product.

Kenta Izumi, the leader of Japan’s main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party, opposed the acquisition of a nuclear-powered submarine, saying the country’s defenses “won’t get stronger just because luxury amenities will be added.”

Among other issues, Kishida reiterated his commitment to implement measures to mitigate the impact of high energy and food prices resulting in part from the weak yen, which has increased the cost of imported goods.

Kazuo Shii, leader of the Japanese Communist Party, has urged the government to halve the consumption tax rate to 5% and take steps to raise wages.

In a separate debate of major party political leaders on public broadcaster NHK, the CDPJ and the Japan Innovation Party called for a reduction in consumption taxes to stimulate the economy.

But Sanae Takaichi, chair of the LDP’s policy research council, said the current level of consumption tax was needed to fund the national pension and health systems.

In the July 10 election for the House of Councillors, in which the coalition currently holds the majority, 150 of the 248 seats will be up for grabs. The official campaign will begin on Wednesday.

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