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Japan's Nuke in the Basement
A Win for Obama's Non-Proliferation Agenda

The Nuclear Security Summit has gotten off to a good start today at The Hague, thanks to a deal between Japan and the United States. NPR has the story:

Japan will hand over to the United States more than 315 kilograms (700 pounds) of weapons-grade plutonium and a supply of highly enriched uranium — a victory for U.S. President Barack Obama’s efforts to secure nuclear materials around the world. […]

Yosuke Isozaki, a senior national security adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said handing over the highly enriched uranium and plutonium is part of Japan’s efforts to prevent proliferation and possible abuse of nuclear material by terrorists — the main aim of the Hague summit.

“Japan shares a vision of a world without nuclear weapons,” he said through a translator.

As part of the deal, the U.S. will continue to receive spent reactor fuel from Japanese nuclear plants for an additional 10 years.

Japan has a domestic stockpile of 9.3 tons of lesser-grade plutonium, along with several caches of nuclear material in foreign countries. It doesn’t plan to build a bomb, but its stockpile and its modern infrastructure enable it to build one in a matter of weeks. China recently has called out Tokyo’s “nuke in the basement,” arguing that Japan’s stockpiles far exceed its “normal needs.” South Korea, too, is discomfited by Japan’s nuclear capability. And Tokyo’s recent allocation of $21 billion to the construction of a nuclear reprocessing plant has not assuaged its neighbors’ concerns.

Still, Japan’s decision to pass on some of its nuclear material to the United States is good news for the Obama Administration, which has been criticized for failing to ease regional tensions in the Pacific. This is not going to make China and Japan best friends, but it certainly won’t hurt.


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  • Andrew Allison

    One can only hope that this post was written by an intern. Japan has, for obvious reasons, a horror of nuclear warfare and is an ally of the US. There was never any question that it would hand over it’s weapons-grade plutonium and highly enriched uranium to anybody else. To present this as “A Win for Obama’s Non-Proliferation Agenda” is, to say the least, a stretch. How about some discussion of its abject failure in Iran?

    • Corlyss

      I think it was written by Amy Carter, in a guest appearance. Whoever it was is a silly git.

  • Fat_Man

    Are they out of their minds? If I were in their position with China cussing at them and a feckless doofus in the White House, I would never think of giving away my ace the hole.

    • El Gringo

      700 pounds out of an estimated 35 tons of nuclear material isn’t going to make much of a difference. This move earns Japan brownie points and costs them virtually nothing.

  • Corlyss

    Great! The O-man can’t get our enemies to disarm but he can get our allies to disarm.

    • Jim__L

      That’s known as “soft power”.

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