Japan has “too early” to talk openly about a possible third nuclear weapon test and it is “too late” to act on the threat, the country’s top nuclear negotiator said on Monday.
Japanese Foreign Minister Koichi Horiuchi said on Saturday Japan had not yet “explored” the possibility that it could conduct another nuclear test.
“There are no indications that we have seen an indication of a possible nuclear test or other activity,” Horiuch said at a news conference in Tokyo.
He added that “any kind of threat to the security of the country and its neighbours cannot be accepted”.
Japan has a limited number of nuclear weapons, a legacy from the end of World War II and the 1945 Nanjing Massacre, which prompted the United States to send in troops to destroy the Japanese capital.
The country’s government has been pushing to reduce the number of its nuclear warheads to as few as two in the next two decades, and last month the government said it was considering scrapping the requirement that the nation’s reactors be designed for maximum safety.
The nuclear industry has grown significantly in Japan in recent years and a nuclear weapons programme is considered a key element of that economic strategy.
But the country is also one of the world’s largest nuclear users, with about 10% of its total annual energy use coming from nuclear power.
A new nuclear weapon is considered one of a number of possible options that the government could pursue to avoid the risk of nuclear proliferation.
In April, the government launched a review of Japan’s nuclear program, saying it needed to reassess the reliability and security of its arsenal, including the use of nuclear warheads.
It said it would not be able to meet its security obligations without further strengthening nuclear deterrence.
The Japanese government’s new security review is the first since Shinzo Abe took office in December and it has been met with opposition from some quarters of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
On Monday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic party, which was the party of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda during his first term in office, said Abe’s nuclear plan was a “serious threat to national security”.
“The government should not wait until after 2020 to take the right step to strengthen the country against an impending nuclear threat,” the party said in a statement.
Japan has seen a surge in attacks on nuclear facilities in recent months and the US has warned Japan that it is considering additional military action against Tokyo over the situation.