Japan's PM rules out discussing nuclear bomb

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The Independent Online

Japan's Prime Minister has said his government would not even discuss building a nuclear bomb, in an effort to stifle talk of a move once considered unthinkable in the only nation to suffer an atomic attack.

"That debate is finished," Shinzo Abe said only hours after his Foreign Minister, Taro Aso, told a parliamentary committee that he didn't see any problem with discussing whether Japan should have the bomb.

It was the third time since North Korea tested an atomic device on 9 October that Mr Abe, who came to office last month, has stated that Tokyo would not abandon its ban on nuclear weapons.

Mr Abe made his first non-nuclear declaration last week in parliament. Then, over the weekend, a ruling party official suggested a debate, prompting Mr Abe to make a statement on Monday.

Mr Aso approached the nuclear subject on Wednesday. "When a neighbouring country is going to have nuclear weapons, one can refuse to even consider the matter... but I think it is important to discuss the issue," he said.

* The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has reassured Japan that Washington would stand by a commitment to protect its Asian ally and tried to temper concerns of an Asian nuclear arms race.