Japan’s Doublespeak Pakistan’s Nuclear Program

October 28, 2010



ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—Non-proliferation has over time become increasingly discriminatory and a vehicle for the powerful to pressurize states they consider “unreliable”, and the fact that these targeted states happen to be primarily Muslim states, with the sole exception of North Korea, reflects a further bias within the developed world. In fact, the accommodating manner in which the US has treated North Korea’s open defiance of the NPT in contrast to the treatment meted out to Iran which has stayed within its NPT obligations and continuously reiterated its abhorrence of nuclear weapons, only bolsters the perception that Muslim states are being targeted by the US and its allies on multiple fronts, especially post-9/11. The Indo-US nuclear deal, and the repercussions of it within the IAEA and Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG), has brought all these contradictions and dualities out into the open.

However, what has been a rude shock for many has been the growing duplicity of Japan on nuclear-related issues. Post-1945 Japan has ostensibly maintained a strong anti-nuclear posture given how it is the only country to have actually suffered nuclear attacks – courtesy the United States. Yet, over a period of time Japan is moving out of the shadows of its professed anti-militarist position as it develops a vibrant arms industry, partners the US in Missile Defense and maintains one of the largest peaceful nuclear programs in the world. As if that was not enough to worry neighbors like China and the Koreas, who still recall the bitter legacy of Japanese militarism, Japan has also begun adopting a dual approach on the nuclear issue with an unstinting opposition to Pakistan’s nuclear program, but the beginnings of an accommodation to the far more extensive Indian nuclear program. Most recently, this has been reflected in the outcome of the meeting between the Japanese and Indian premiers in Tokyo which not only resulted in a trade pact, but also the promise of Japanese export to India of its state-of-the-art nuclear technology.

India, as a result of its nuclear deal with the US, has become a vast market for nuclear exports and countries like France and the UK are casting aside their superfluous non-proliferation concerns in order to gain access to this market – with the US clearing the NSG and IAEA hurdles. For the Japanese, the road is less smooth because there is still a strong anti-nuclear weapons lobby within Japan. Yet the Japanese Premier, Naoto Kan, is undeterred and stated that India and Japan had “agreed to speed up negotiations for civil nuclear energy cooperation while seeking India’s understanding of our country’s sentiment as a nuclear-bombed nation.” So, unlike the demands on Pakistan by the Japanese to sign the NPT and CTBT, no such demand is being made on India – only an apologetic appeal for Indian understanding as to why the Japanese will take a little more time to give India sensitive nuclear technology.

On further scrutiny, it is easy to find that Japan has long harbored nuclear ambitions and its nuclear program has been developed in such a way that it is barely a “screwdriver’s turn” away from possessing nuclear weapons. So far, it has suited Japan to have a “nuclear ready” status without actually taking the last and final step in that direction. That is why, at a Pugwash Conference in Beijing a few years earlier, one heard the North and South Korean participants decry Japanese plans to build the controversial Rokkasho reprocessing plant, which has now become operational and is the first industrial-scale reprocessing plant in a non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS). As a matter of fact, Japan possesses massive amounts of excess plutonium because it also has a large fast-breeder program, which allows stockpiles of fissile material to be built up. In December 1995, Japan was reported to have 4.7 tons of plutonium – enough for 700 nuclear warheads. Japan also has an indigenous nuclear enrichment plant – something the Indians are still seeking to perfect – which can also provide enriched uranium for nuclear weapons production. Japan has also developed the M-V three-stage solid fuel rocket, similar in design to the US LGM-118A Peacekeeper ICBM, which could serve as a ready delivery vehicle. In addition, Japan has been involved in developing the latest fighter aircraft with the US also. So, it has all the nuts and bolts in place if it chooses to go nuclear. Already, there is a growing move to do away totally with the constitutional restrictions on Japan developing a full-scale military.

Unfortunately, like the US, Japan’s record on nuclear safety is not too good. Nuclear safety issues have been more acute in Japan which has had a series of nuclear accidents. The following incidents relating to nuclear safety issues in Japan once again highlights the fact that so far globally it is the more developed industrial states that seem to have had more extensive safety problems in terms of their nuclear installations.

According to the record on the Greenpeace website, between 1975-1995, the following nuclear accidents took place in Japan:


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