Kyoko Altman at PostGlobal

Kyoko Altman

Hong Kong, China

Kyoko Altman has worked as a correspondent and anchor for CNN and CNBC, and as a news-magazine reporter for Japan's top-ranked news program 'News Station' on TV Asahi. She has covered more than twenty countries. Close.

Kyoko Altman

Hong Kong, China

Kyoko Altman has worked as a correspondent and anchor for CNN and CNBC, and as a news-magazine reporter for Japan's top-ranked news program 'News Station' on TV Asahi. more »

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An Explosion of Japanese Nationalism

Hong Kong - Could North Korea's nuclear test push Japan into the nuclear club? Until Sunday the nuclear question was unthinkable in Japan. After all, it was the world's only nation to suffer the horrors of a nuclear attack. Since its defeat in WWII, Japan has not only renounced nuclear weapons but also the use of any offensive military capability. It made peace the cornerstone of its foreign policy. But now Japan's vaunted peace diplomacy has fallen under the cast of a mushroom cloud.

North Korea's nuclear detonation is sure to galvanize popular support for Japan's hawkish new Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, a man who rose to the top job in Japanese politics with his hard-line stance towards North Korea. Abe wants to revise the country's anti-war constitution that bans nuclear weapons. He says Japan should have a full-fledged military. And he advocates patriotic education in public schools and textbooks that gloss over Japan's wartime past.

Abe's vision was once considered on the far right of Japan's political spectrum. Kim Jong Il has helped push it to the mainstream. Japan's press heralded Abe's dramatic summit meetings with leaders of China and South Korea this week as a triumph for Japan. As public opinion shifts to the right, so too does the balance of power in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

For now Abe is likely to call for a stronger alliance with the U.S. to counter the threat from North Korea. Indeed his grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, was an architect of the U.S.-Japan security alliance that places Japan under the U.S. nuclear umbrella. But Japan's faith in that arrangement is also weakening. How long can an ally so deeply entangled in the Middle East be counted on to spill more blood defending allies in Asia? As Abe's sudden rise has shown, old attitudes can change fast in response to current events.

When the Korean Central News Agency issued the statement saying the nuclear test "greatly encouraged" those who "have wished to have a powerful self-reliant defense capability" it could also have been speaking for Japan. One crucial difference: If the world's second largest economy resolves to build a nuclear weapon, there will be no need to question whether it will work.

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