Japan's prime minister insisted his government won't even discuss building a nuclear bomb, struggling to stifle talk of a move once considered unthinkable in the only nation to suffer an atomic attack.
"That debate is finished," Shinzo Abe testily declared to reporters Wednesday, hours after his foreign minister, Taro Aso, told a parliamentary committee that he didn't see any problem with openly discussing whether Japan should have the bomb.
It was at least the third time since North Korea tested an atomic device on Oct. 9 that Abe - a defense hawk who came to office last month promising an assertive Japan - has had to insist that Tokyo will not abandon its postwar nuclear weapons ban.
The prime minister's stance underscores how sensitive the topic remains, more than 60 years after US atomic weapons obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II.
A full-blown nuclear debate in Japan would be highly divisive and emotional - and would endanger Abe's push to make Japan more militarily active in the world.