Japan and Hair-Trigger Alert

Published Mar 31, 2015 Updated Apr 2, 2015


Though some U.S. analysts believe otherwise, an overwhelming majority of Japanese citizens and elected representatives would support the United States removing land-based missiles from hair-trigger alert. Over the past 15 years, successive Japanese administrations from across the nation’s political spectrum have embraced this policy change, which would lower the risk of an accidental or unauthorized nuclear launch.

Despite this, many U.S. security experts argue that removing U.S. weapons from hair-trigger alert would undermine U.S.-Japanese military relations. Since World War II, Japan has relied on U.S. assurances that it would protect Japan in the event of a nuclear attack. U.S. analysts argue that removing hair-trigger alert would undermine those assurances, prompting Japan to launch its own nuclear weapons program.

These fears are unfounded. As recently as 2014, Japan’s conservative leadership called on the United States and others to “take steps towards de-alerting their nuclear forces to help lower the risk of inadvertent use.” This mirrors numerous earlier official statements, and is supported by most Japanese citizens, nearly half of whom consider nuclear weapons the greatest danger in the world. 

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