Occasional Cortex: Therefore Japan Goes Nuclear

Russia’s annexation of Crimea had its origin in Victoria Nuland and her ilk in the State Department. Nuland brought regime change to Ukraine and Putin’s reaction was in effect that if there were to be no rules, he would do what he wanted -- which was to take back Crimea. Crimea had been part of Russia from 1783 but Nikita Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine in 1954 to make the map of the Soviet Union look neater. That is an example of unintended consequences if you don’t view the effects of your actions from the perspectives of all the players. Nuland rolled the dice and Ukraine lost Crimea.

By the way, the Crimeans are happier to be part of Russia again. Ukraine is dirt poor with a GDP per capita of $2,000 per annum due to corruption. It is the Bolivia of Europe. Russia is just as corrupt but has 11 million barrels per day of oil production to share around.

So it is also easy enough to predict that many governments around the world will be viewing the Democratic Party’s lurch to the far left with alarm. Suddenly all the treaties and expectations that have kept the world safe could be null and void, chief of which is mutually assured destruction. A lot of countries didn’t develop nuclear weapons in the 1960s and 1970s because they were assured that a nuclear attack on their territory would result in a nuclear attack on the aggressor by the United States.

It is telling that one country that did develop nuclear weapons was South Africa, because it was a pariah state prior to the end of apartheid. Nobody could tell it what to do so it did what was sensible for South Africa. South Korea started the path to nuclear weapons in the 1970s, but the United States talked them out of it.

The South African nuclear program cost them just $250 million though they only developed U235-based weapons, not plutonium ones. Given the choice and time, one would pay up for the plutonium versions.

Now the situation is that the worst people in the world have nuclear weapons -- the Pakistanis (paid for by the Saudis), the North Koreans, the Iranians, who are said to have a couple of ex-Soviet nukes obtained on the black market if nothing else yet.

For Japan, their number one problem is China’s nuclear weapons. China has proclaimed loud and wide that they own Japan's Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, and they will not stop at anything less than the four home islands. They want to turn Japan into a vassal state paying tribute. In a conventional war, Japan would most likely win, with or without the United States. But China would take losing badly and would start lobbing nuclear weapons at Japanese cities until Japan tapped the mat. The only reason why China might not do that would be the prospect of an American retaliatory nuclear strike.

That is why Japanese prime ministers keep asking U.S. presidents if the nuclear umbrella is still in place, starting with Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, who asked President Johnson twice -- in 1965 and in 1967.  In February 2017, President Trump reassured Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of the U.S. nuclear deterrent in an unambiguous statement: “The US commitment to defend Japan through the full range of US military capabilities, both nuclear and conventional, is unwavering.”

Japan has been preparing for the withdrawal of the U.S. nuclear umbrella for some time. In 1969 the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs adopted a policy guideline:

Japan will take a policy not to possess nuclear weapons for a while, but maintain an economic and technical potentials for nuclear weapon production and pay attention to not being restricted from doing so by others.

That is why Japan developed its own nuclear reprocessing industry which could be used for a weapons-based program. As a result of that reprocessing, which runs at a loss, Japan has accumulated 47 tons of reactor-grade plutonium. This is useless for making weapons because its Pu240 content is too high at about 20%. Weapons-grade plutonium has a Pu240 content of 7% or less. Japan did have 300 kg of weapons-grade plutonium the United States had lent them in the 1960s. That would have been enough for 50 fifty-kiloton weapons (assuming that they were tritium-boosted). China was agitated by this and so the Obama regime insisted on its return in 2014. One cheap way of helping keep the peace in Asia would be to send those 300 kg back to Japan.

The Obama regime had also considered a No First Use policy for nuclear weapons in 2016, meaning that the United States would not respond to an attack that wasn’t on U.S. soil. Japan was agitated by that because it meant that their nuclear shield would be down.

So you can imagine the alarm around the world at what the Democratic presidential primaries might result with. The likes of Sandy Ocasio-Cortes and Beto O’Rourke literally know nothing, to borrow a phrase from Ben Rhodes. No foreign country would even bother asking a President Ocasio-Cortes or President O’Rourke for reassurance on the nuclear shield.  Because however they felt one day, the answer might be different the following day.

If not from 2020, there will not be a President Trump from 2024. One can’t make nuclear weapons overnight so some countries will be dusting off their plans now, starting with Japan.

David Archibald is the author of American Gripen: The Solution to the F-35 Nightmare