Oct 9, 2010
Frayed relations with China and Russia, the ever-present threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons, and a re-examination of the 1960 U.S.-Japan security treaty, formally known as the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, has some in the Japanese government and military considering what would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, Japan entering the club of nations possessing nuclear weapons.
Since Japan was the only nation to have suffered from the wartime use of nuclear weapons — the dropping of U.S. atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in August 1945, there is a strong anti-nuclear feeling among the Japanese people. But it noteworthy that Japan had two nascent programs to build an atomic bomb during World War II — the Army’s Ni-Go project and the Navy’s F-Go program. In the 1960s, the Lyndon Johnson administration pressured the Eisaku Sato government to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty amid fears that Sato was pushing for a Japanese nuclear weapons capability to counter that of China.
The security treaty provided for the United States to come to the aid of Japan to defend against an armed attack on those territories under Japanese administration. However, WMR has learned from informed Japanese sources that a classified annex to the treaty does not provide for the United States to commit to the defense of two disputed territories: the Senkaku islands, which are claimed by China (which calls them the Diaoyu Islands) and have been the basis for recent naval incidents between Japan and China, and four islands in the southern Kuril Islands chain that were occupied by the Soviet Union in the final days of World War II and which are still occupied by Russia.
The Senkakus were occupied by the United States when its military occupied Okinawa in World War II but a secret annex to the U.S.-Japanese treaty excludes the islands from the U.S. defense umbrella for Japan, according to Japanese sources. Similarly, the annex does not recognize Japanese sovereignty over the southern Kuril islands of Habomai, Shikotan, Etorofu and Kunashir. Another secret protocol to the U.S.-Japanese treaty permitted to United States to station nuclear weapons on Japanese soil.
With the U.S. increasingly seen by Japanese military and foreign policy policy-makers as an overextended and failing superpower, some elements in the Japanese government and think tanks feel that the only way Japan can be self-assured over its defense is for the country to amend its constitution and laws to allow for the introduction of nuclear weapons for the Japanese Self-Defense Force.
The recent demotion of Japan below China to a number three world economic power ranking also has some Japanese convinced that Japan must look beyond its security alliance with the United States and provide for its own defense, which in today’s geo-political climate necessitates the acquisition of nuclear weapons.
WMR has learned from Japanese sources that when a green light is given by the government, it will take only three months for Japan to develop and deploy nuclear warheads for its military forces. Japan maintains an independent uranium enrichment capability and is able to use its own rocket technology to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile delivery system. There is some speculation that since Japan already possesses nuclear weapons designs details, it merely has to jump to production in order to field weapons. Japan is already the world’s third largest nuclear power producer after the United States and France, both of which are nuclear weaponry powers.
The recent skirmish between Japanese Coast Guard vessels and a Chinese fishing boat in disputed Senkaku waters and a firm Russian rejection of negotiations with Japan over the future of the disputed southern Kurils as a “dead end,” has renewed interest by Tokyo in a more independent Japanese military policy, one that sees the possession of an independent Japanese nuclear force as a definite option. Adding to Japanese frustration is the refusal of the United States to vacate its unpopular military presence on Okinawa, a factor that helped bring down the government of the former prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama.
In 1968, Sato’s government redefined its peaceful nuclear power policy and commitment to non-proliferation by amending it to give it the option of pursuing nuclear weapons if the U.S. nuclear umbrella was ever seen as unreliable. With the revelation that the United States has excluded the Senkakus and southern Kurils from what it considers to be Japanese territory, the Sato clause is now being seriously considered. In 1994, Foreign Minister Yohei Kono revealed the existence of a secret 1969 Japanese Foreign Ministry document that urged Japan to maintain the capability to develop nuclear weapons.
In 2005, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso reportedly told Vice President Dick Cheney in Washington that “India, Pakistan, and the DPRK all have nuclear weapons. If the DPRK continues to develop nuclear weapons, Japan must also arm itself with nuclear weapons.” In 2008, Aso became Prime Minister of Japan. In 2006, former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone floated the notion of Japan acquiring its own nuclear weapons.
Because China has always insisted Japan must not develop nuclear weapons, there is a powerful faction in Japan’s military and political establishment that wants to do exactly what China opposes as a way of throwing down a gauntlet to Beijing’s wider aspirations in Asia.
The word from Tokyo is that it is no longer a question whether Japan will develop a nuclear weapons capability, but when. And “when” would now appear to be very close.
If Japan opts to leave the NPT regime and obtain nuclear weapons there will be a domino effect in Asia. It is well known that while the world was concentrating on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, South Korea quietly embarked on its own secret nuclear weapons acquisition program. In 2004, it was revealed that Seoul had maintained a secret uranium enrichment production program at South Korean research facilities since the early 1980s and that the program involved enriching uranium and producing plutonium. Canada investigated charges that one of its Candu nuclear reactors it sold to South Korea was involved in the clandestine program.
It is also believed that Taiwan acquired nuclear weapons as the result of a secret alliance between apartheid South Africa, Israel, and Taiwan. South Africa gave up its nuclear weapons when it achieved majority black rule in 1994. There are also reports of secret Israeli involvement with North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Burma is also suspected of maintaining a clandestine nuclear weapons acquisition program.
This article was posted: Saturday, October 9, 2010 at 3:01 am