By Yu Runze, Sina English
Japanese defense minister, Satoshi Morimoto indicated his country's atomic energy production program provided valuable deterrent capabilities against possible foreign aggressors, Kyodo News reported on September 6.
At an open meeting in January, Morimoto said that Japanese atomic reactors are "taken by neighboring countries as having very great defensive deterrent functions."
Revelations about Morimoto's remark comes against the backdrop of a high-profile public debate on phasing out Japan's reliance on nuclear energy following last year's disastrous atomic reactor meltdown at Fukushima.
The defense chief told the news agency, "now that I have become a member of the government, I would like to follow the government's policy" of adhering to a decades-old voluntary abstention from acquiring, manufacturing, or permitting the location of nuclear armaments in Japan.
He added, though, "If possible, I would like to reflect my view in actual policies."
Earlier this summer, the Japanese government modified its atomic energy law to include language tying nuclear power to "contributions to Japan's national security." Some worried the update could later be used to justify initiating a nuclear arms program.
Morimoto's position in the Cabinet means he will play a role in determining the country's updated energy strategy, including whether to maintain or phase out nuclear power.
Morimoto's January remarks "have nothing to do with the view of the government," Japanese government Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said at a news briefing.
The Japanese government "absolutely does not" view atomic energy installations as having future uses in nuclear arms production, Kyodo quoted the top government spokesman as saying.