A protester stands in front of the Japanese Embassy in Manila,
on the one year
anniversary of the March 11, 2011 nuclear
Japan. The second summit on nuclear security
is now being held in
Seoul South Korea.
Japan is Not Out of the Question
“It cannot be
said that Japan has no military intentions. At any time, programs involving the
peaceful use of nuclear energy can be converted to military uses. In 1969, a senior Foreign Ministry research team produced a
secret internal document advising that Japan's always maintain the economic and
technological prowess to produce nuclear weapons. … Japan already possesses 45
tons of enriched plutonium that could be converted to military use. That is
enough to build about 4,000 ‘Nagasaki-type’ bombs.”
There are two types of atomic weapons. One is a uranium-based
or a "Hiroshima-type" bomb, and the other is plutonium-based or a "Nagasaki-type"
device. Iran claims to be stockpiling enriched uranium for peaceful purposes
but is suspected of having nuclear ambitions. Japan also maintains a reserve of
plutonium, but is not so suspected.
However, it cannot be said that Japan has no military
intentions. The fact is that at any time, programs involving the peaceful use
of nuclear energy can be converted to military uses. Nuclear power and the military
are not mutually exclusive.
According to Akira Kurosaki, an associate professor at
Fukushima University, a winner of the Suntory Prize for Social Science and the
Humanities for his 2006 book Nuclear Weapons
and Japan-U.S. Relations, in the 1960s, there is plenty of documentation showing
an intent on the part of politicians and diplomats to try and turn Japan into a
“potential nuclear weapons state” by promoting nuclear energy. The documents
were drawn up when the nation’s post-war nuclear policy was taking shape.
Eisaku Sato, Japan’s prime
minister at the time, enunciated his four nuclear
policies: maintaining the three nuclear-free principles of not possessing, producing
or permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons into Japan; relying on the American
nuclear deterrent; promoting the peaceful use of nuclear power; and promoting
However, the third policy of “promoting the peaceful use of
nuclear power” carried with it a hidden intent to potentially possess nuclear
Prime Minister Sato strongly opposed China's 1964 nuclear
weapons test and told U.S. Ambassador Edwin Reischauer that with its scientific
and industrial prowess, Japan was fully capable of producing nuclear weapons of
its own. It was in 1965, one year later, that Japan's first commercial nuclear plant
in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, achieved criticality.
In 1969, a senior Foreign Ministry research team produced a
secret internal document advising that Japan's always maintain the necessary economic
and technological prowess to produce nuclear weapons. It was prepared shortly
before the entry into force of the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which allowed
only the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China to possess
nuclear weapons. The No. 1 reactor at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant was
completed in 1970. In 1994, the Mainichi Shimbun was the first to report on this in-house
Foreign Ministry document.
According to Professor Kurosaki, these nuclear policies
weren’t precisely drawn up by Prime Minister Sato. Sato summarized and
rubber-stamped them after heated negotiations among Japan and the United States,
bureaucrats at the Foreign Ministry, industry and lawmakers from both the
ruling and opposition parties.
And even then, this undercurrent of Japan's nuclear policy continued.
When the North Korean nuclear issue emerged in the 1990s, calls erupted for
Japan to go nuclear, but this was and remains a minority view.
In 2007, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and three
nuclear arms experts pointed out that in the post-Cold War era,
the traditional concept of nuclear deterrence is obsolete. In 2009, President
Barack Obama drew global attention by calling for a world free of nuclear
weapons. But since then, the world has witnessed military expansion on the part
of China and Russia and weapons development in North Korea and Iran.
I interviewed Professor Kurosaki in his Fukushima University
office last week. High-pressure cleaning vehicles were seen flushing out radioactive
material from the campus. A native of the city of Niigata, Kurosaki studied law
at Tohoku University, served as an assistant professor at Rikkyo
University and held other posts before assuming his current post in 2009.
In Kurosaki’s view, given that nuclear weapons and nuclear
power are inextricably linked, the twin natural and man-made disasters of March
11, 2011 require Japan to fundamentally alter its nuclear policy.
Posted by Worldmeets.US
Japan already possesses 45 tons of enriched plutonium that
could be converted to military use. That is enough to build about 4,000
"Nagasaki-type" atomic bombs. Japan has the capacity to reduce its stockpile
of enriched plutonium by burning it in fast-breeder reactors or pluthermal
plants (enriched plutonium blended with natural uranium, reprocessed
uranium, or depleted uranium), but the prospects for this are remote.
One wonders, given that Japan has been unable to bring the
collapsed nuclear power plant at Fukushima under control, whether Prime
Minister Noda would assert that with “available technology,” Japan is capable
of safely carrying out the complete nuclear fuel cycle. Nevertheless, a
nuclear-armed Japan remains a possibility.
Today, a two-day nuclear security summit opened in Seoul bringing
together the leaders of 53 countries. While there is certainly no objection to preventing
nuclear materials from passing onto the hands of terrorists, I want to see a discussion
of how to reduce the world’s dangerous surplus of enriched plutonium.
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