Former Japanese Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba said during a recent interview with TV Asahi Tokyo should consider whether it can sufficiently deter North Korea. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 6 (UPI) -- Discussions of deploying U.S. tactical nuclear weapons are growing in Japan, where concern is mounting that North Korea's recent nuclear test and missile provocations could ultimately culminate in an attack on Japanese soil.
In an interview with TV Asahi, former Japanese Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba said Wednesday it may not be right to rely on the United States' nuclear umbrella, a controversial statement that challenges the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Japan adopted in 1971.
"Is it really right to ask the United States' nuclear umbrella to defend [Japan] while saying we cannot place [nuclear weapons] in Japan?" Ishiba said.
The Japanese politician with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said the country should consider whether it could sufficiently deter North Korea.
Japan, unlike neighboring South Korea, has never deployed tactical nuclear weapons on its territory.
Tokyo has mostly ruled out dialogue with Pyongyang, but Japanese wrestler-turned-lawmaker Antonio Inoki left for Pyongyang on Wednesday for a five-day visit, NHK reported.
Inoki, 74, is to meet with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong during his visit, according to the report.
Before boarding a plane for Beijing, Inoki told reporters at Haneda Airport he will "stress the importance of peace," as he did in 2016.
"I hope severed relations with North Korea will be resumed somehow," Inoki said, who last visited Pyongyang in September 2016, when North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test.
North Korea's increased provocations have prompted other Japanese politicians to make contentious statements in public, including Wataru Takeshita, the Diet affairs chief for the ruling LDP.
Takeshita, 70, had said it would be "inconsequential" if a North Korean missile landed in Shimane Prefecture in western Japan, because it has a relatively smaller population than Hiroshima Prefecture, Mainichi Shimbun reported this week.
The Japanese politician then said a North Korean missile would "not fall on Shimane Prefecture, since it is aimed at U.S. military bases in Tokyo, Osaka."
"It is relatively assuring since accuracy has increased with many North Korea missile launch tests," Takeshita said, while pointing out North Korea's missiles would likely fly over Japan toward the waters around the U.S. territory of Guam.