U.S. Believed Japan Could Produce Atomic Weapons in 1970s: Records

Global Security Newswire Staff
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Global Security Newswire Staff
Oct. 30, 2013, 8:02 a.m.

The United States in 1977 as­sessed that plutoni­um Ja­pan pro­duced for its nuc­le­ar-en­ergy pro­gram could be used to pro­duce weapons and ex­pressed that be­lief to the Ja­pan­ese gov­ern­ment, Ky­odo News re­por­ted on Wed­nes­day, cit­ing re­cently de­clas­si­fied dip­lo­mat­ic doc­u­ments.

A U.S. non­pro­lif­er­a­tion of­fi­cial in­formed a Ja­pan­ese en­voy based in Aus­tria the then-pre­val­ent the­ory that re­act­or-grade plutoni­um could not be used to fuel nuc­le­ar war­heads was in­cor­rect, ac­cord­ing to a Feb­ru­ary 1977 dip­lo­mat­ic missive sent from the Ja­pan­ese em­bassy in the United States to the Ja­pan­ese For­eign Min­istry.

Ja­pan­ese atom­ic spe­cial­ists at the time did not view plutoni­um with­drawn from used re­act­or fuel to be suited for use in mak­ing war­heads.

The United States back then was against a Ja­pan­ese gov­ern­ment plan to be­gin op­er­at­ing the na­tion’s first spent fuel re­pro­cessing fa­cil­ity. Today, Ja­pan’s mul­tiple re­pro­cessing plants have re­covered enough plutoni­um to fuel hun­dreds of weapons. The coun­try has so much of the ma­ter­i­al it can­not store it all on its own ter­rit­ory. There are cur­rently some nine tons of plutoni­um in Ja­pan while the United King­dom and France are hold­ing an ad­di­tion­al 35 tons of the Ja­pan­ese-pro­duced pro­lif­er­a­tion-sens­it­ive sub­stance.

Ja­pan has long-been con­sidered to be a nuc­le­ar-break­out state, mean­ing it has the tech­nic­al know-how and re­sources to de­vel­op a war­head should the gov­ern­ment make the polit­ic­al de­cision to do. However the is­land na­tion has forsworn nuc­le­ar arms pro­duc­tion since com­ing un­der at­tack by U.S. atom­ic bombs in World War II. The grow­ing threat posed by North Korea’s nuc­le­ar weapons pro­gram as well as China’s in­creas­ingly will­ing­ness to as­sert its ter­rit­ori­al claims in the re­gion has spurred some lim­ited talk in­side Ja­pan about wheth­er the coun­try should de­vel­op a nuc­le­ar mil­it­ary cap­ab­il­ity.

What We're Following See More »
CONGRESS BETTER GET ON BOARD
Mnuchin: Expect Tax Overhaul by August
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS
‘TOP OF THE PACK’
Trump Looking to Expand Nuclear Arsenal
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS
HAD ATTRACTED A CROWD TODAY
Alt-Right Leader Spencer Removed from CPAC
10 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
RECREATIONAL USERS
White House Promises Crackdown on Pot
11 hours ago
THE DETAILS
SAYS LEFT WILL GO INTO “MELTDOWN”
Cruz Predicts Another SCOTUS Vacancy “This Summer”
15 hours ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login