"Nuclear Armored Train for Japan" Possibility of Japan's Developing Nuclear Weapons Weighed by Vasiliy Golovin Moscow EKHO PLANETY No 8, February 1994 (signed to press 16 Feb 94) pp 18-23 [Text] Tokyo--Instructions for official use printed on gray-green wrapping paper almost caught my eye about 15 years ago, when I found myself at routine training courses for officers of the reserve. They were devoted to the military possibilities of the Pacific countries, and the Japanese section of this manual confidently said that Tokyo had all the possibilities for nuclear arms and was prepared to realize its potential in the very near future. It inexorably ensued from the instructions that the perfidious Samurai were dreaming of nothing other than how to get their hands on a nuclear bomb and hurl themselves into new conquests. Imagine for a moment an angry fledgling journalist of the late-Brezhnev times whom a summons of the military registration office had yanked out of his home newspaper office, garbed in an overwashed soldier's "cotton" with lieutenant's shoulder boards, lodged in a mosquito-filled tent, and forced to busy himself with all kinds of things, inconceivable for a civilian, not far from the Chinese border. "Utter rubbish," "a crude soldier's ravings"--these, perhaps, were the mildest expressions, which I would repeat over and over to myself, when reading the scribble "for official use" about Japan, which, as I knew full well, could in our times be accused of whatever you liked, only not of unbridled militarism or, even less, of a secret attraction to nuclear weapons. But now, I must confess, I am prepared to take a somewhat different view of the naive propaganda instructions formerly compiled by vigilant Far East officers ready to deliver the rebuff. The point is that the assessments which they formulated 15 years ago coincided almost fully with conclusions that are now being ascribed to their colleagues from the British Ministry of Defence. The difference is merely the fact that the Soviet paper has remained, as befits a military document, secret, while the British one has caused an international sensation. It surfaced on 30 January of this year in the respectable London SUNDAY TIMES, which has always been considered a model of journalistic conscientiousness and has never, we are assured, been caught out in major fact-juggling. On this occasion the newspaper reported that Britain's Defence Ministry had in December of last year presented its government with a classified report on Japan having everything necessary for the creation of nuclear weapons. It was a question, you will note, not simply of the general potential, which, essentially, no one denies. No, the British military, in the paper's words, declared that Tokyo already, in fact, possesses all the practical components of a nuclear weapon, including intricate electronic firing mechanisms, which have been a stumbling block for many "third world" countries attempting to take possession of the cherished bomb. Essentially, THE SUNDAY TIMES wrote, for the creation of a warhead Japan has now only to insert the plutonium filling in the device, which is practically ready. There is as yet, the authors of the report emphasize, no evidence that Tokyo has already made the decision to create a "big bomb" or is in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. But the potential threat of such a step is growing inasmuch as Japan is extremely worried by the efforts of neighboring North Korea to create its own nuclear potential and will, possibly, be confronted with the need to adopt retaliatory measures of a military nature. The article in the British newspaper caused embarrassment in Tokyo. To my insistent inquiries officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Science and Technology Agency, which is in charge of Japan's nuclear programs, initially refused to "confirm or deny" THE SUNDAY TIMES report altogether. Only a representative of the National Defense Agency categorically termed the British article utter rubbish, but just as emphatically asked me not to mention his name here. Finally, over 24 hours after the appearance of the publication, a news conference with Kuniko Saito, first deputy minister of foreign affairs of Japan, was organized in Tokyo. The mere fact of it being held, incidentally, was something quite rare for Japan, where employees of the Foreign Ministry have no great liking for openly addressing the public, preferring anonymous briefings for trusted journalists, after which the requisite articles containing references to "high-ranking sources in the Foreign Ministry" opportunely appear. But on this occasion the country's highest-ranking professional diplomat deemed it necessary to violate this tradition in order to lend special authority to an emphatic refutation of the rumors concerning Tokyo's nuclear plans. Saito emphasized strictly that Japan adheres unswervingly to the three nonnuclear principles proclaimed by its government--not to have, not to manufacture, and not to import nuclear weapons. He announced simultaneously that the Foreign Ministry intended to contact the British Defence Ministry and clarify with it the question of the existence or otherwise of a classified report. Few of those present at the news conference noticed, it seems to me, that behind the decisiveness of these words Saito was refuting not entirely what had been stated by the sources in London. They had not said that Japan was "in violation" of the Nonproliferation Treaty or was "already making" a nuclear bomb. As far, on the other hand, as the highly specific possibilities for its manufacture are concerned, the opinions of the British report and of independent experts working in Tokyo are surprisingly coincident here. "Is Japan ready to create nuclear weapons? Of course," Haruo Fujii, one of Tokyo's most celebrated military specialists, who regularly presents commentaries in the news media, told me. But, in the expert's opinion, it would be profoundly wrong to suspect Tokyo of the implementation of some secret, mind-boggling program and the creation of secret nuclear laboratories concealed, in the manner of the old inimitable James Bond movies, somewhere in romantic underground bunkers or in the craters of volcanoes. No, everything is far more prosaic: Japan, the expert believes, cleaves to a long-term strategy of the gradual creation of operational nuclear potential "bit by bit," dispersing this work in discrete civilian sectors evoking no suspicion. The point being that Japan is not, forgive the banality, Iraq. It possesses a colossal, very ramified diversified industry and is engaged in a tremendous number of technological developments in a myriad research institutes, the best of which belong to private companies. At the same time, on the other hand, as Tetsuo Maeda, a former member of the staff of the National Defense Academy and an independent military expert who is well known here, told me, with the present system of parliamentary approval of the budget, it is practically impossible in the country to conceal some large-scale government spending on research without an indication of its specific purpose. The general secretary of the Cabinet of Ministers does, it is true, have at his disposal restricted funds not subject to accounting, but I have no information as to whether they are sufficient for funding serious long-term work. Under these conditions, experts believe, the emphasis has been put on encouraging "just in case," by way of various indirect privileges and legal budget infusions, the development of highly intricate dual-purpose technology which is being undertaken in private companies. This strategy is producing results. For example, companies of the country long since created unique firing mechanisms for performing complex petroleum-prospecting exploration, which may now be used as detonators for an atomic bomb, the above-mentioned Tetsuo Maeda, whose opinion is shared by Haruo Fujii also, informed me. These firing mechanisms have been tested and are being employed successfully in oil fields of the Near East. There is reason to believe that it is to these that the authors of the sensational "British report" could have been referring. Naturally, firing mechanisms alone are not enough for the creation of a nuclear bomb, which requires primarily a filling from operational fissionable materials. Essentially, as experts of the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy told me recently in a private conversation, Japan, with its 36 operating nuclear reactors and ramified system of nuclear power stations, could even now practically immediately fashion a primitive "dirty" uranium or plutonium bomb. It would, of course, be extremely unwieldy and heavy for delivery, but perfectly ready for use. But the creation of more modern and compact warheads will obviously require possession of particularly pure weapons-grade plutonium. According to certain unconfirmed information, Tokyo already has such for research purposes in a quantity sufficient for several weapons. In addition, it has already been decided at the present time at the nuclear center of Tokai Village (Ibaraki Prefecture in the center of Honshu Island) to build a facility for reprocessing spent radioactive fuel into highly pure plutonium entirely suitable for use for combat purposes. Of course, this capacity is being created for peaceful purposes for the more efficient use of fissionable material in nuclear power engineering. But no one can deny something else also: With the startup of such facilities Tokyo will acquire an opportunity in full for the manufacture of operational nuclear weapons of any configuration. Atsushi Tsuchida, an employee of the Natural Sciences Institute in Saitama Prefecture and an activist of the environmental movement who is well known in Japan, maintained categorically in an interview with the WEEKLY PLAYBOY, for example, that the work in Tokai Village is potentially of a military nature. The point is that the facility being erected there will specially serve amazing devices--so-called fast-neutron breeder reactors, which could become the basis of a national operational nuclear program. And here we must provide a brief scientific-technological explanation. Installations of this type produce energy by "feeding" on a uranium-plutonium mixture. A hallmark of the breeders is that in the course of this operation they produce as "waste" more plutonium than was put into them in the form of fuel. In other words, they themselves, as it were, partially supply themselves with radioactive fuel for subsequent operation. And the enrichment facilities of the Tokai Village plant type will bring the remaining waste of the activity of the breeders to the requisite condition, creating a closed cycle--on the perpetual-motion model, virtually. It is for this reason that the breeders with their very high efficiency are currently being extolled in Japan as the most economical source of energy and as the basis of the country's future energy independence. Despite all these tempting aspects, leading Western countries (including the United States, the FRG, Britain, and even France, which have scored major successes in breeder development) have already abandoned or are abandoning the massive use of this type of reactor. There is just one reason--the unacceptable danger in their operation inasmuch as the plutonium is exceptionally radioactive, more toxic than uranium by orders of magnitude, and capable even in microscopic doses of afflicting people with incurable types of cancer. For this reason the least incident in its use threatens monstrous consequences. At the present time Japan alone is proceeding doggedly along the path of the creation at the start of the next century even of a network of wonderfully efficient and monstrously dangerous breeder reactors, intending to make them the basis of its nuclear power engineering in the 21st century. Of course, such obduracy could be fully explained by a maniacal aspiration to energy independence, highly understandable in a country that has always been horrified by the prospect of it being deprived of access to oil. But one can, if one wishes, discern a "false bottom" also behind the suspicious obduracy of implementation of this program. The point being that the breeder reactors produce mainly plutonium-239, which, in turn, serves as the main component of modern nuclear warheads. When purified to a level of 94 percent, the "filling" for the big warhead of a heavy strategic missile is obtained. Its further enrichment to the 98 percent level permits the creation of compact weapons for tactical missiles. Subsequently, the possession of plutonium-239 opens the way to the creation of neutron warheads, which, possibly, would be the most suitable for Japan's military strategy. Upon detonation this "clean" bomb gives off, as we know, particularly strong and short-lived radioactive irradiation, reducing to a minimum contamination of the terrain and the radioactive cloud. For Tokyo such properties could be particularly attractive based on the fact that all its potential nuclear adversaries are situated in direct geographical proximity. Even the best nuclear weapon, you will agree, has still somehow to be delivered to target--be it a military base, giant aircraft carrier, or peaceful city. Specialists believe that Tokyo already possesses some potential means of delivering nuclear weapons--although their selection is as yet not all that convincing, to be honest. According to information of the military expert Tetsuo Maeda, the country's armed forces have 10 classes of missile of American design, on which, in principle, nuclear warheads may be mounted, including the ASW Asroc and also missiles of the surface-to-air and ship-to-air class. When transferred from the United States, they were all, it is true, modified such as to preclude their use in a nuclear version. But, in the expert's opinion, the reverse modification would present no great technical problem. The 155-mm and 203-mm self-propelled howitzers, which Japan's Self-Defense Force has available, could also be used for firing nuclear shells--but these are battlefield weapons, not all that attractive for Tokyo. From the strategic viewpoint it could be best suited by missiles capable of threatening potential military adversaries in the Asia-Pacific region. The powerful two-stage H-II rocket based entirely on native, Japanese, technology, which was successfully launched into space for the first time on 4 February, could be of particular interest in this plane. Its long development, accompanied by accidents and exasperating malfunctions, pursued the perfectly obvious aim of eliminating the dependence on the United States in the sphere of rocket and space technology. The point is that even with the independent manufacture in Japan of combat aircraft and missiles under American license, certain of the most important components come from the United States in the form of "black boxes," which Tokyo is not entitled to unseal. Now, however, it is for the first time in history acquiring an opportunity to have not only its own space-launch platform but also a practically ready military intercontinental ballistic missile. We would recall that the H-II can guide into a geostationary orbit a payload of up to two tonnes, which is more than sufficient for the accomplishment of any combat missions. As Tetsuo Maeda believes, the practical use of the H-II in a military version is, for all that, unlikely. Its sustainer engines, as with the Russian Energiya or the American reusable Shuttle space-launch platform, operate on liquid hydrogen and oxygen. This simplifies the design of the rocket and enhances its efficiency. But it is hard maintaining hydrogen-oxygen engines in a state of permanent readiness, which is particularly important for an operational missile. In addition, they require great preflight preparation and are costly to maintain. In other words, the H-II is of significance mainly as a test bench for the perfection of its own space technology and as a means of guiding into orbit heavy satellites and reusable craft. From the military viewpoint, however, the MV missile, which is practically unknown to the public at large and which is now quietly, without a racket in the press, being prepared for its first launch in 1996 by specialists of the Institute of Space and Astronautics of the Ministry of Education of Japan, is far more attractive. This solid-fuel launch platform, which is easy to maintain, will be capable of guiding into low near-Earth orbit at an altitude of up to 250 km a payload of 1.8 tonnes. Such specifications, in experts' opinion, are perfectly sufficient for converting the MV into an effective military missile, which would be suitable for placing on alert status. Concluding these technical details, it may, it seems to me, be said with sufficient confidence that Japan even now possesses or could obtain in the very near future every opportunity for providing itself with full-fledged nuclear weapons. This also, incidentally, is the opinion not only of the anonymous authors of the "British report" and independent Tokyo experts but also of the highly influential American politician Sam Nunn, who is head of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee and who possesses, if only by virtue of this, sufficiently accurate information. The Japanese, he declared on 30 January in an interview with NBC Television, currently "have the necessary possibilities, technology, and plutonium. They could manufacture nuclear weapons very quickly." Tokyo does not at this time, come to that, have specific plans for involving itself in nuclear weapons in earnest. In the opinion of the majority of specialists, practical work of such a scale is very hard to conceal at the final stage, although, of course, Iraq and Israel and South Africa easily twisted around their fingers the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. In addition, possession of the basic technology and components, of course, still does not mean that it is possible immediately to form them into a pile and obtain the ready product. There are, in addition, operational and, in fact, very serious problems connected, for example, with the development of systems of the guidance and storage of nuclear weapons, the choice of sites for the location of the nuclear bases, and so forth. However simple it might seem to us, it is extremely difficult to solve the final question in Japan, with the present legislation. Concerning the legal problems, incidentally: No one in Tokyo has actually as yet rescinded either the three nonnuclear principles, which are officially in effect, or the antiwar provisions of the constitution, although back in 1982 the Japanese Government declared that the basic law did not in principle prohibit the possession of nuclear weapons for defensive needs.... On the other hand, albeit not ideal, a stable system of parliamentary democracy and civilian control of the military with nothing in common with the practices in authoritarian Baghdad or in Pyongyang, where everyone is obedient to the will of the leader, operates in this country. In other words, however tedious this sounds, the actual creation and deployment in Japan of nuclear weapons must necessarily be preceded by a very serious political decision based on the support of public opinion. We are talking, after all, about a drastic change in the entire national strategy, about the conversion of a peaceful merchant country into a great military power. There are as yet too many things in the way of this step. The ordinary "Japanese in the street" would simply laugh to scorn anyone who told him of the need to acquire a nuclear bomb. The public here has sufficiently stable pacifist complexes and is straining for battle least of all. The memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is still alive in the country, although the keenness of such recollections has been noticeably blunted. In addition, there is no serious political force in Japan as yet that could persuade the public of the need for nuclear arms and an abrupt change in the country's entire strategy. But the fact that such a force might appear cannot be ruled out. Calls were periodically heard earlier also from military and right-wing-conservative political circles of Japan for some "thinking" about the nuclear question, but they were quickly and emphatically cut short--up to and including the immediate dismissal of the generals who had become unduly lost in daydreams. Japan had the dependable American nuclear umbrella, and the splendidly declared nonnuclear principles even distinguished Tokyo favorably in the world arena from the United States, the USSR, and other "imperialists" and afforded it an opportunity to maintain the very profitable reputation of a quiet, smiling country engaged merely in honest business. Now the situation has gradually begun to change. Japan is entering a period of changes, although their direction is not entirely clear as yet to the Japanese themselves even. Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa is now speaking of a decentralization of power and a complete restructuring of the bureaucratic machinery. After a bitter political struggle, the cabinet approved in January bills on a cardinal change in the electoral system. Battles are being fought over a revision of the structure of tax collection and regulation of the economy. All this in conservative and quiet Japan is gradually creating an atmosphere where what even about two years ago everyone would have termed fantasy is becoming possible. The so-called "new conservatives" headed by the self-assured and energetic Ichiro Ozawa, secretary general of the Renewal Party and the most influential figure in present-day Japanese politics, are the most consistent in their plans. He is calling for Japan's conversion into a "normal country." This means that it is time for Tokyo to abandon all postwar self-limitations, including the formal ban on the creation and use of armed forces. Japan, the supporters of such a policy believe, should struggle actively for a seat as a permanent member of the Security Council and should show that it is in no way inferior to nuclear France or Britain. Thoughts concerning the possibility of the abandonment of the nonnuclear principles would, you will agree, fit perfectly well on the overall canvas of such arguments. And last summer Tokyo, it seemed to many people, came very close to expressing them out loud. This came like a bolt from the blue: During the Tokyo meeting of the leaders of the seven leading industrially developed countries the Japanese Government made it understood that it very much doubted the need for an indefinite extension of the present Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which expires in 1995. Tokyo specified, it is true, that it had no intention of acquiring nuclear arms. But, as stated at that time, Japan does not believe that the present treaty affords the proper guarantees from the viewpoint of the struggle against the spread of weapons of mass destruction. In addition, in Tokyo's opinion, this document is unfair inasmuch as it accords the great nuclear powers excessive privileges. A worried Washington immediately put strong pressure on Japan, and it very quickly lifted its objections to an indefinite extension of the treaty. But this story showed graphically that serious debate is secretly under way deep in Tokyo offices about the country's attitude toward nuclear weapons, which could produce a most unexpected result. It is not, for that matter, a question merely of dreams of new grandeur, of course. The main thing that could push Japan into the decision to acquire a bomb is, of course, a sense of its own defenselessness, which it has felt keenly in connection with the reports of the DPRK's nuclear preparations. For the first time since the war, essentially, Tokyo has now perceived itself to be vulnerable inasmuch as in the years of the cold war it never, it seems to me, seriously believed in a Soviet attack. But the Kim Il-song regime, isolated and driven into a corner to some extent, is far from being the USSR of the times of Khrushchev or Brezhnev. In addition, the Nodong 1 ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead being developed by Pyongyang will without a shadow of doubt be targeted directly on Japan as a "state hostile toward the DPRK." With secret, carefully concealed alarm Tokyo is observing also the situation in China, which is increasing its military potential rapidly. Many experts are predicting that after the death of Deng Xiaoping an acute power struggle with an outcome that is hard to predict could develop there. Even now there are forecasts of, say, an abrupt increase in Beijing's aggressiveness and a stimulation of its attempts to take control of the ocean routes in the region. There is also a mass of forecasts concerning a possible military clash between the PRC and Vietnam over domination in the South China Sea, and Tokyo would not want to be a helpless victim of this battle on transport routes that are of vital importance to it. Japan still relies fully at this time in a military respect on the United States as the guarantor of its security. But anxious misgivings are being voiced increasingly at expert and private conversation level in Tokyo as to whether Washington could or will want in future decades also to defend Tokyo against regional threats as fervently as it previously covered it against the "Soviet bear." The fact that the Japanese have no great faith in the dependability of the American missile defense systems that are being offered them is of considerable importance also. Everyone understands that an attack merely by the North Korean Nodong 1 with a nuclear warhead on an area of, say, the densely populated city of Osaka would have catastrophic consequences for the whole country. Of course, the situation in the Far East and the Asia-Pacific region is far from boiling point as yet. Washington is with Tokyo's full support playing intricate games with Marshal Kim Il-song, attempting to dispose him in favor of renunciation of the nuclear nightstick in exchange for a "carrot" in the form of promises of economic assistance and an easing of the trade blockade. But no one has as yet confounded the pessimists' predictions that Pyongyang is playing the game of dialogue merely in an attempt to win time for the total completion of military programs intended to cover forever "Korean-model socialism" by a nuclear palisade. After this, it may perfectly well be assumed that Seoul, which fears most in the world its consanguineous northern brothers, would also declare its right to nuclear arms, giving rise to a chain reaction of the proclamation of "nuclear sovereignties." In the opinion of the above-mentioned expert Haruo Fujii, it is this "domino effect" and the failure of the Nonproliferation Treaty that could force Tokyo also to make the decision to create its own nuclear defenses. But, as the specialist believes, even with a dramatic development of events, Japan would be not the second but only the third "new nuclear power" of Asia--behind Pyongyang and Seoul. Of course, no one wants Tokyo's armament with a "big bomb" at this time--neither its best ally, the United States, nor China and the neighboring Pacific countries. Such a version would be a threat also to a Russia which is tormented by internal burdens and for whom the appearance in the Far East of a new military superpower--one with territorial claims on Moscow into the bargain--would be wholly needless. But the most important thing, of course, is that Tokyo itself does not as yet want a nuclear bomb with all its attendant problems and dangers. But, it would seem, it does not, nonetheless, wholly reject the iron logic of the well-known Soviet song "Kakhovka" with the music of Dunayevskiy and the words of Svetlov. All too much indicates that the "peaceful people" from Japan are according to a plan or with general tacit consent building on its relief tracks a perfectly usable nuclear armored train.
Article Id: jptnd005__l94061 Document Id: 0dhwx6h02b44ib Insert Date: 11/11/95 Purge Date: 11/24/97 Publish Date: 07/18/94 Document Number: JPRS-TND-94-005-L Document Type: JPRS Document Title: PROLIFERATION ISSUES