Monday, October 09, 2006

Will Japan Now Develop The Bomb?

Longtime readers here know that I have been saying that North Korea did not have any nuclear weapons, despite the conventional wisdom that they did.

It looks like my information may have been dated by last night's development.

I will link to the story (when it comes out--and it will) that will assert that the intelligence community had serious doubts that the North had any weapons.

A big question now is whether Japan will take the bait and start building nukes:

The last time North Korea tested a powerful new weapon - in 1998, when it fired a ballistic missile over the largest Japanese island - Japan reacted by beefing up its military and swinging politically to the right.

Now, the North's apparent test of an atomic weapon on Monday could push Japan even further down the same conservative path. Many political analysts say the test, which has yet to be confirmed, could weaken public support for the nation's post-World War II pacifism, and prompt Japan to seek a growing role in regional security.

But could the crisis be big enough to force Japan to break what might be its ultimate postwar taboo - and go nuclear itself?

This is what some in the region have speculated Tokyo would do if the isolated and erratic Communist regime to its north suddenly conducted a test detonation of an atomic bomb. But for now, analysts say, domestic opposition to the idea runs too deep for Japan to change its renunciation of nuclear weapons.

Japan is known to have stockpiles of weapons-grade atomic material, which are used in its civilian nuclear power and research programs, and some studies have said that Tokyo could construct a bomb in a matter of months if it chose. But analysts say that while the North's claimed test was likely to increase calls within Japan to acquire atomic weapons, these proponents will remain limited to the nation's far-right fringe.

The idea of going nuclear, the analysts say, would still face broad and emotional opposition in Japan, which remains the only nation to have suffered atomic attacks, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The prospect of a nuclear Japan might also send shudders through the rest of Asia, where memories are still raw from Japan's wartime aggression.

Instead, the most likely result of Monday's apparent test, say analysts, will be to rally public opinion around Japan's new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and his calls for taking Japan in a more self-assertive and hawkish direction. In particular, a crisis in North Korea would increase Abe's chances of winning support for his goal of revising the country's anti-war Constitution to allow Japan to possess full-fledged armed forces.

"The nuclear test may prove to be an even bigger shock to public opinion" than the missile, said Yasunori Sone, a professor at Keio University in Tokyo. "It won't make Japan build nuclear weapons. But it could turn into a 'wind from the North' that gives Mr. Abe and his policies a big lift."

For the time being, said Sone and other analysts, Abe appears to be trying to take a leading role in responding to the crisis. On Monday, Abe and other Japanese leaders were quick to condemn the claimed test, saying their country was working closely with the United States and Asian neighbors like South Korea and China to find a response.


Ol' "Shoot From The Hip Effy" will add an idea that was presented to me this morning by a Washington troublemaker. This source (who was not the well-connected source of my earlier assertion) posits that the explosion picked up by the sensors was entirely conventional, not nuclear. And that China is saying that it bears the signature of a nuclear bomb in order to help take the heat off of Bush in a period in which all the other political news has been negative to abysmal.

If an immediate nuclear arms race in East Asia does not ensue, I may give more credence to this theory.

2 Comments:

Blogger Meatball One said...

I buy into the conventional theory. Ive been eighing the words of pundits and experts all day on the cable news networks and 'alleged' is the operative word - and everyone is unusually careful to stick to it..including Fox. I believe 'alleged' is all the kaboom there is in this event - and of course the game played with it by a multitude of invested parties.

10/09/2006 4:14 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...

M1:

President Bush has no doubt that it is real.

Your gut feel is probably right, though.

10/09/2006 4:46 PM  

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