"[Arms Control Today] has become indispensable! I think it is the combination of the critical period we are in and the quality of the product. I found myself reading the May issue from cover to cover."

– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
June 1, 2018

U.S. Approves Missile Defense Sale to Japan

The Trump administration gave its final approval Jan. 29 for a $2.2 billion sale of missile defense systems to Japan. Congress received notification of the deal, including two Aegis Ashore missile interceptor batteries, from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, triggering a 30-day opportunity for Congress to object, which happens rarely. The sale notification was delayed by the 35-day U.S. government partial shutdown, which slowed the Foreign Military Sales approval process, including a necessary green light from the U.S. State Department.

The sale reflects expanding U.S. support for Japan’s multilayered missile defenses, which already include multiple U.S.-provided Aegis systems on Kongo-class destroyers. Japan’s cabinet approved missile defense expansion plans in December 2017. (See ACT, September 2018.)

The Aegis Ashore systems are slated to feature the Standard Missile-3 Block IIA missile interceptor, which is currently completing testing. (See ACT, December 2018.) The interceptor uses hit-to-kill technology to defeat short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The scope of intended targets may increase because the Trump administration's 2019 Missile Defense Review calls for testing the interceptor against an intercontinental ballistic missile-class target in 2020.

The defense sale includes supporting equipment, software, U.S. construction and logistical services, and six vertical launchers.—SASHA PARTAN

U.S. Approves Missile Defense Sale to Japan

Japan’s Misguided Plutonium Policy

October 2018
By Alan J. Kuperman and Hina Acharya

Facing U.S. diplomatic pressure and the expiration of the initial 30-year term of the 1988 U.S.-Japanese nuclear agreement, the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) in late July revealed a plan ostensibly intended to reduce Japan’s massive 47-metric-ton stockpile of unirradiated plutonium by boosting the use of mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel in the country’s nuclear power reactors.

Protesters demonstrate against the arrival of a vessel loaded with mixed-oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel from France for the Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Takahama nuclear plant at a Japanese port on June 27, 2013. The cargo of MOX fuel, a blend of plutonium and uranium, was the first such nuclear fuel to arrive in Japan since the atomic disaster at Fukushima, which was sparked by the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. (Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images)This plan unfortunately would make the problem worse. It also contradicts the findings of a just-published study that the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project researched for a year, examining the seven countries, including Japan, that have commercially used or produced MOX fuel for thermal nuclear power plants.1 The research found that five of these countries already have decided to phase out MOX fuel, which is a blend of plutonium with uranium, due to concerns about economics, security, and public acceptance.

The JAEC has correctly identified the problem but not the solution. The surplus 47 metric tons of plutonium is sufficient to make more than 5,000 nuclear weapons. Japan is now the only country without such weapons that reprocesses its spent nuclear fuel, creating still more plutonium. Japan even plans to start commercial operation in 2021 of a domestic reprocessing plant that would produce up to an additional eight metric tons of plutonium annually.

All this creates the impression internationally that Japan is preserving the option to quickly produce a large nuclear weapons arsenal. Not surprisingly, South Korea, North Korea, and China have cited Japan’s plutonium stockpile as grounds to initiate or expand their own reprocessing of nuclear fuel, thereby raising the specter of a disastrous nuclear arms race in East Asia.2

The Japanese government was wise to declare a policy to reduce its plutonium stockpile. Yet, the JAEC strategy to do so by increasing the use of MOX fuel in the country’s nuclear power reactors is wrong for at least four reasons: it is impossible to do in the near term, counter-productive, not the quickest way to reduce the stockpile, and unsuitable for most of Japan’s domestic plutonium.

Roots of Japan’s Stockpile

Before discussing the flaws of the JAEC plan and offering an alternative, it is important to understand the roots of the current situation. Japan’s massive plutonium stockpile is the result of five decades of technological and policy failure. In 1966, Japan started producing nuclear energy commercially and, at its peak, the country had nearly 60 traditional light-water reactors (LWRs), using non-weapons-usable uranium fuel to supply the country with 34 percent of its energy.3 Regrettably, based on ill-founded fears of global uranium shortages, Japan also followed the trend of the 1960s by planning to construct and operate fast-neutron breeder reactors (FBRs), aiming to increase the energy value of uranium by converting more of it to plutonium for use as reactor fuel.

The government encouraged the reprocessing of Japan’s spent LWR fuel at home and abroad to separate plutonium to fuel FBRs, which the government expected to produce energy commercially as early as 1985.4 From 1974 to 2011, Japan spent $17 billion on developing FBRs,5 but the efforts failed. In December 1995, a sodium leak and fire at the prototype Monju FBR caused it to go offline until 2010,6 and in 2016 the government declared that it would decommission the facility.7

Workers of Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) check a mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel container after it was unloaded from a vessel at the KEPCO's Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui prefecture June 27, 2013. (Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images)While the ill-fated breeder reactor was under development, the Japanese government also decided to mix some of its separated plutonium with uranium to make MOX fuel as a partial substitute for low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel in its LWRs.8 In 1986, it first tested a small amount of such MOX fuel in its Tsuruga-1 reactor, laying the groundwork for commercialization.9 In 1988 testimony to the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Milton Hoenig of the Washington-based Nuclear Control Institute outlined Japan’s plans to deploy MOX fuel commercially in LWRs beginning in 1997. He testified that Japan planned to use 96 metric tons of plutonium in 12 LWRs from 1997 to 2017.10 In February 1997, Japan’s Federation of Electric Companies issued an even more ambitious plan to use MOX fuel in 16 to 18 LWRs from 1999 to 2010.11

Japan did not come anywhere close to meeting its intended 1997 start date for deployment of MOX fuel in LWRs. Indeed, it missed by more than a decade. The multiple reasons for that delay help illustrate the foolhardiness of the JAEC’s new plan to expand MOX fuel use.

In the early 1990s, Japanese utilities signed contracts for MOX fuel supply from companies in the United Kingdom, France, and Belgium. Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) were slated to be first to utilize MOX fuel.12 France’s Cogema, later renamed AREVA and then Orano, reprocessed TEPCO’s spent fuel, and the separated plutonium was used to fabricate MOX fuel in Belgium. Thirty-two MOX fuel assemblies for Fukushima Daichii-3, containing 210 kilograms of plutonium, were shipped to Japan in 1999, under a contract with a Franco-Belgian consortium known as COMMOX.13

KEPCO’s spent fuel was reprocessed by British Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (BNFL), which also contracted to fabricate MOX fuel for the Takahama-3 and -4 reactors.14 In 1999 the first batch from BNFL comprised eight MOX fuel assemblies containing 255 kilograms of plutonium.15 The MOX fuel assemblies from the UK and Belgium were shipped together to Japan from July to September 1999 (table 1).16

Sources: Jinzaburo Takagi et al., “Comprehensive Social Impact Assessment of MOX Use in Light Water Reactors,” Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), November 1997, p. 252, http://www.cnic.jp/english/publications/pdffiles/ima_fin_e.pdf; International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM), “Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Imports/Use/Storage in Japan,” April 2015, http://fissilematerials.org/blog/MOXtransportSummary10June2014.pdf.



In October 1999, the Japanese utilities were on the verge of loading MOX fuel into the Fukushima Daiichi-3 and Takahama-4 reactors,17 but reports emerged that BNFL had falsified quality-control data of the MOX fuel for the KEPCO reactors. Takahama-4 was intended to be the first reactor to use MOX fuel after receiving its eight assemblies in October 1999. Two months prior, BNFL discovered and then disclosed that its employees had falsified data for other MOX fuel still in the UK but intended for the sister reactor, Takahama-3. This raised concerns that the data for the Takahama-4 fuel, just arriving in Japan, also had been falsified.

KEPCO reported in September 1999 that, on the basis of its own analysis, the Takahama-4 fuel was safe.18 Yet, two anti-nuclear Japanese nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), Green Action and Mihama-no-Kai, already had persuaded Japanese officials to obtain and provide them the BNFL data to conduct an independent analysis.19

Apparently trying to hinder such external oversight, BNFL did not release computer files but only paper books of data on the pellet size. Undeterred, the two NGOs copied and distributed the paper data sets for local citizens to assist in reviewing and then produced an analysis showing that BNFL had falsified the quality control, which UK regulatory authorities confirmed in November 1999.20 It turned out that BNFL employees had not manually measured the size of pellets, as required, but simply copied and pasted the measurements from earlier batches.

Following these disclosures, the start dates for use of MOX fuel in the Takahama-3 and -4 reactors were postponed. Unirradiated MOX fuel assemblies containing 255 kilograms of plutonium were returned to the UK in 2002, and BNFL paid $100 million compensation to KEPCO.21

After the initial delay in MOX fuel use at Takahama, Japanese citizens filed a lawsuit to stop the deployment of MOX fuel at Fukushima Daichii-3. Anti-nuclear activists presented evidence to the district court that production standards in Belgium were even lower than those at BNFL.22 The activists ultimately lost the case, but the governor of Fukushima retracted previously granted permission to deploy MOX fuel in the reactor, due to a combination of the BNFL scandal and the revelation in 2001 that TEPCO had falsified inspection data to hide the presence of cracks in some reactors.23 MOX fuel assemblies that had been shipped to the Fukushima Daichii-3 reactor were placed in storage.24

The third power plant slated for MOX fuel was Kashiwazaki Kariwa. Some surrounding communities had unsuccessfully opposed building the reactors, but the receipt of MOX fuel assemblies from France in 2001 magnified public opposition. Anti-nuclear NGOs persuaded the local legislature to hold a referendum and launched a comprehensive education campaign, including distributing informational leaflets. In the May 2001 referendum, 54 percent of voters in the village of Kariwa opposed the deployment of MOX fuel, with voter turnout of 88 percent.25

Despite this vote, the mayor of Kariwa was on the verge of approving MOX fuel use in 2002, but it was revealed that TEPCO had concealed its periodic inspections data. In September 2002, the prefecture formally withdrew its approval for MOX fuel use. As of July 2018, the fresh MOX fuel assemblies still had not been inserted into the reactor, 17 years after they were delivered.26 This poses a security risk because the unirradiated MOX fuel contains over 200 kilograms of plutonium, sufficient for at least 20 nuclear weapons.

Renewed Japanese support for MOX fuel emerged in 2007, when three Japanese utilities signed contracts with AREVA, which started producing the fuel to be delivered between 2007 and 2020.27 Six Japanese utilities eventually signed MOX fuel contracts between 2006 and 2010 (table 2). Although 401 assemblies were contracted to be fabricated by AREVA, only 133 had been received by Japanese utilities as of 2018.

Sources: CNIC, “Japanese Nuclear Power Companies’ Pluthermal Plans,” March 2007, http://www.cnic.jp/english/topics/cycle/MOX/pluthermplans.html; IPFM, “Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Imports/Use/Storage in Japan,” April 2015, http://fissilematerials.org/blog/MOXtransportSummary10June2014.pdf; Greenpeace, “Takahama Plutonium Fuel Shipment Exposes Risks and Failure of Japanese Nuclear Policy,” July 5, 2017, http://www.greenpeace.org/japan/ja/news/press/2017/pr201707051/.


Finally, Japan commercially irradiated its first MOX fuel in an LWR in 2009, some 12 years behind the original schedule, only to be stopped two years later after use in only four reactors by the 2011 Fukushima accident (table 3). Since 2016, Japan has restarted MOX fuel usage, but failed to expand it. As of July 2018, Japan’s net imports of MOX fuel had contained 5.1 metric tons of plutonium (tables 1 and 2), and Japan was still storing unirradiated MOX fuel containing 1.7 metric tons of plutonium.28 Thus, in the history of its commercial LWR program, Japan has irradiated MOX fuel containing only about 3.4 metric tons of plutonium, a tiny fraction of its remaining plutonium stockpile.29

Source: IPFM, “Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Imports/Use/Storage in Japan,” April 2015,  http://fissilematerials.org/blog/MOXtransportSummary10June2014.pdf. The Fukushima disaster, in March 2011, triggered an orderly shutdown of all nuclear power reactors in Japan by May 2012, during scheduled maintenance. Restarting these plants requires approval under the stricter regulations of a new Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), which is tantamount to relicensing and has been partial and gradual. In July 2018, only eight of Japan’s historical total of 59 reactors, including two still under construction, were operating, of which three had some MOX fuel in their cores.30

Japan’s pilot-scale reprocessing plant is being decommissioned, but the Japanese government still anticipates the start of commercial operations at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant in 2021, producing up to an additional eight metric tons of plutonium annually.31 This plan continues on apparent autopilot despite Japan having terminated the FBR program, which was the original rationale for reprocessing, and the country currently operating only a fraction of its LWRs in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

The consequence of reprocessing spent fuel for four decades, while failing repeatedly to implement large-scale use of MOX fuel, is that Japan has accumulated more than 47 metric tons of unirradiated plutonium. That is more plutonium than in the nuclear weapons programs of the UK, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea—combined.

The plutonium is reactor-grade but fully capable of producing reliable nuclear weapons.32 At the start of 2018, Japan possessed 10.5 metric tons of plutonium domestically, while also owning 15.5 metric tons in France and 21.2 metric tons in the UK. Since then, Japan has inserted and irradiated additional MOX fuel in the Genkai-3 reactor, reducing its domestic stock of unirradiated plutonium by 640 kilograms to less than 10 metric tons, but its stockpile in the UK will soon grow by an equivalent amount.33

Flawed Plan

On July 31, 2018, the JAEC issued its revised guidelines titled “Basic Principles on Japan’s Utilization of Plutonium.”34 This document initially declares, promisingly, that “Japan will reduce the size of its plutonium stockpile,” but the strategy is actually based on boosting plutonium commerce by “promoting collaboration and cooperation among the operators” of Japan’s nuclear power plants to increase their use of MOX fuel. Further revealing the intention to expand the plutonium economy, the JAEC reports that “Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL) plans to complete the construction of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant and the MOX Fuel Fabrication Plant in the first half” of fiscal years 2021 and 2022, respectively.

This policy, ostensibly intended to reduce Japan’s plutonium stockpile by increasing domestic use of MOX fuel, has four major problems. First, Japan cannot quickly accelerate use of MOX fuel because it lacks the reactors to do so. Only nine Japanese reactors are licensed to use MOX fuel. Of those, two (Onagawa-3 and Kashiwazaki Kariwa-3) have not applied to restart in the wake of the 2011 earthquake-driven Fukushima disaster. The potential restart of two others (Tomari-3 and Shimane-2) is hindered by related earthquake concerns. In Shizuoka, the governor and mayors oppose the restart of another reactor (Hamaoka-4). Operation of a sixth reactor (Ikata-3) was suspended in December 2017 by court injunction. That leaves only three reactors that currently can operate with MOX fuel: Takahama-3 and -4 and Genkai-3. Together they annually can irradiate only 1.5 metric tons of plutonium, or barely 3 percent of Japan’s stockpile, a rate much too slow to address international concerns.

Second, even if Japan could increase the use of MOX fuel by licensing other reactors to use it, that would be counterproductive. Increased domestic use of MOX fuel would spur calls from Japan’s nuclear industry to finalize the domestic reprocessing plant and finish construction of the adjoining MOX fuel fabrication facility, which is only 12 percent complete because work was suspended after the Fukushima accident. The JAEC plan says the MOX fuel industry should “minimize the feedstock” of plutonium, but Japanese officials insist they will need a five-year working stock, which is potentially up to 40 metric tons of plutonium, in light of the new reprocessing plant’s capacity of eight metric tons annually. This obviously would not solve the plutonium-stockpile problem but rather perpetuate and magnify it in Japan. For perspective, the working stock of France’s MOX fuel industry is 35 metric tons of plutonium, but Japanese officials say that Japan’s more diverse reactors would require a greater variety of MOX fuel and thus extra working stock.

Third, there are quicker and safer ways for Japan to reduce its plutonium stockpile. About 21 (soon to be 22) metric tons of Japan’s plutonium, nearly half the stockpile, is in the UK, which has offered to take ownership for the right price. Other countries already have accepted this UK offer, including Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden.35 Japan should do likewise, quickly paying the UK to take title to all of its plutonium there, which overnight would cut Japan’s stockpile by 45 percent, much faster than the 3 percent annual reduction through MOX fuel use.

Japanese utilities also could save money by doing so because they would avoid the expense of storing the plutonium in the UK and eventually fabricating it into MOX fuel, which costs nine times more than LEU fuel.36 Japan’s government could even subsidize the title transfer by using its reprocessing fund, which holds payments by utilities to manage nuclear waste.

Fourth, most of Japan’s 10 metric tons of domestic unirradiated plutonium cannot currently be used in its reactors. More than six metric tons are in the form of separated plutonium, which Japan has no commercial facility to fabricate into MOX fuel. Another nearly two metric tons was fully or partially fabricated into a different type of fuel for the now-terminated FBRs, which cannot be inserted into LWRs. That means only 1.7 metric tons of the unirradiated plutonium in Japan, contained in imported MOX fuel, is readily usable in reactors, and some of it only if more reactors are restarted.

For the other eight metric tons held domestically, Japan could develop technology to dispose of it as waste in coordination with the United States, which last May announced its own plan to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons plutonium as waste. To the JAEC’s credit, its plan calls for examining the “disposal of plutonium that is associated with research and development purposes.” Tokyo and Washington already have a mechanism for such technical cooperation, known as the U.S.-Japan Plutonium Management Experts Group, which should be revitalized to expedite such disposal.


Japan needs a different plan than boosting use of MOX fuel to attain its stated national goal of reducing its plutonium stockpile. To start, Japan should pay the UK to take ownership of the 22 metric tons there. Next, Tokyo should work with Washington on technology to quickly dispose as waste the eight metric tons of plutonium in Japan that cannot readily be used as fuel. That leaves about 15.5 metric tons of plutonium in France and two metric tons in Japan, a more manageable quantity that could be dealt with relatively quickly as a combination of waste and MOX fuel.

In this way, Japan could eliminate its plutonium stockpile in perhaps five years, assuming that it also terminated its costly, unnecessary, dangerous, and incomplete facilities for reprocessing spent fuel and fabricating MOX fuel. Going forward, Japan should switch to direct disposal of spent fuel, as all other countries, except France, that previously used MOX fuel in multiple thermal reactors already have done. Indeed, the JAEC’s most useful recommendation is to “[s]teadily promote efforts toward expanding storage capacity for spent fuel.”

Assuming Japan does not secretly wish to preserve a nuclear weapons option, this proposed road map could reduce its plutonium stockpile rapidly. If Japan instead expands use of MOX fuel as the JAEC recommends, thereby increasing its domestic stockpile of plutonium, neighboring countries will question Japan’s intentions and respond accordingly. That could ignite a latent or, even worse, actual nuclear arms race in East Asia. The Japanese government should think twice to make sure that its energy policy does not undermine its security policy.



1. Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project, “Plutonium for Energy?” n.d., http://sites.utexas.edu/prp-mox-2018/.

2. Yukio Tajima, “Japan’s ‘plutonium exception’ under fire as nuclear pact extended; Beijing and Seoul question why US allows only Tokyo to reprocess,” NIKKEI Asian Review, July 14, 2018

3. Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC), “Plutonium Utilization in Japan,” October 2017, p. 1, http://www.aec.go.jp/jicst/NC/iinkai/teirei/siryo2017/siryo38/siryo3-1.pdf; Susan E. Pickett, “Japan’s Nuclear Energy Policy: From Firm Commitment to Difficult Dilemma Addressing Growing Stocks of Plutonium, Program Delays, Domestic Opposition, and International Pressure,” Energy Policy, Vol. 30, No. 15 (December 2002): 1337–1355.

4. Pickett, “Japan’s Nuclear Energy Policy,” p. 1341.

5. International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM), “Plutonium Separation in Nuclear Power Programs: Status, Problems, and Prospects of Civilian Reprocessing Around the World,” July 2015, p. 62, http://fissilematerials.org/library/rr14.pdf.

6. “Opposition to Dangerous MOX Fuel,” Nuke Info Tokyo, No. 127 (November/December 2008), pp. 1-2, http://www.cnic.jp/english/newsletter/pdffiles/nit127.pdf.

7. “Japanese Government Says Monju Will Be Scrapped,” World Nuclear News, December 22, 2016, http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-Japanese-government-says-Monju-will-be-scrapped-2212164.html.

8. Kenichiro Kaneda, “Plutonium Utilization Experience in Japan,” in Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) Exploitation and Destruction in Power Reactors, ed. E.R. Merz et al. (Dordrecht: Springer, 1995), p. 163.

9. JAEC, “Plutonium Utilization in Japan,” p. 3.

10. Milton Hoenig, “Production and Planned Use of Plutonium in Japan’s Nuclear Power Reactors During 30-Year Base Period of the Proposed U.S.-Japan Agreement” (statement before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing on the United States-Japan Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, March 2, 1988).

11. “Opposition to Dangerous MOX Fuel.” In 2005 the deadline for expanding mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel to this many reactors was pushed back five years to 2015.

12. Jinzaburo Takagi et al., “Comprehensive Social Impact Assessment of MOX Use in Light Water Reactors,” Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), November 1997, p. 252, http://www.cnic.jp/english/publications/pdffiles/ima_fin_e.pdf.

13. Mayumi Negishi, “High Waves Hamper MOX Fuel Delivery,” Japan Times, September 22, 1999; IPFM, “Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Imports/Use/Storage in Japan,” April 2015, http://fissilematerials.org/blog/MOXtransportSummary10June2014.pdf.

14. “Opposition to Dangerous MOX Fuel.”

15. IPFM, “Mixed-Oxide (MOX) Fuel Imports/Use/Storage in Japan.”

16. Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment, “MOX Transport,” n.d., http://corecumbria.co.uk/mox-transport/ (accessed September 18, 2018).

17. Edwin S. Lyman, “The Impact of the Use of Mixed-Oxide Fuel on the Potential for Severe Nuclear Plant Accidents in Japan,” Nuclear Control Institute, October 1999, http://www.nci.org/j/japanmox.htm.

18. “The MOX Fuel Conundrum,” Japan Times, July 26, 2013.

19. Aileen Mioko Smith, interview with with Hina Acharya, Kyoto, Japan, January 6, 2018.

20. “Japan: MOX Program to Restart at Takahama,” Nuclear Monitor, No. 607 (April 2004), https://wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/607/japan-mox-program-restart-

21. “BNFL Execs Bid to Drum Up Trust and New Deals,” Japan Times, September 20, 2000.

22. “Another MOX Scandal?” Nuclear Monitor, No. 542 (January 2001), https://www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/542/another-mox-scandal.

23. “Tepco Not to Be Punished in Reactor Crack Scandal,” Japan Times, September 15, 2001.

24. CNIC, “Japanese Nuclear Power Companies’ Pluthermal Plans,” March 2007, http://www.cnic.jp/english/topics/cycle/MOX/pluthermplans.html.

25. David Cyranoski, “Referendum Stalls Japanese Nuclear Power Strategy,” Nature, No. 411 (June 14, 2001), p. 729; “Niigata Village Says No to MOX Fuel Use at Nuke Plant,” Japan Times, May 28, 2001. “刈羽村住民投票でプルサーマル反対が多数,” May 28, 2001, http://www.kisnet.or.jp/nippo/nippo-2001-05-28-1.html.

26. “MOX Fuel Unloaded in Niigata; Security Tight as British Ship Docks at Tepco Nuclear Plant,” Kyodo, March 25, 2001.

27. Areva, “Reference Document 2006,” April 27, 2007, http://www.sa.areva.com/mediatheque/liblocal/docs/groupe/Document-reference/2006/pdf-doc-ref-06-va.pdf.

28. Japanese Office of Atomic Energy Policy, “The Status Report of Plutonium Management in Japan - 2017,” July 31, 2018, http://www.aec.go.jp/jicst/NC/about/kettei/180731_e.pdf.

29. This excludes the small amount of plutonium in experimental MOX-fuel assemblies inserted in two reactors in the 1980s.

30. “Compliance with New Nuclear Power Plant Regulatory Standards,” Kakujoho, http://kakujoho.net/npt/aec_pu2.html#moxstts; Masafumi Takubo, email to author, July 3, 2018. See Japan Nuclear Safety Institute, Licensing Status for the Japanese Nuclear Facilities,” August 10, 2018, http://www.genanshin.jp/english/facility/map/.

31. “Decommissioning Plan for Tokai Approved,” World Nuclear News, June 13, 2018, http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/WR-Decommissioning-plan-for-Tokai-approved-1306184.html; Masafumi Takubo, “Closing Japan’s Monju Fast Breeder Reactor: The Possible Implications,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 73, No. 3 (May 2017): 183.

32. Gregory S. Jones, Reactor-Grade Plutonium and Nuclear Weapons: Exploding the Myths (Arlington, VA: Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, 2018).

33. Japanese Office of Atomic Energy Policy, “The Status Report of Plutonium Management in Japan - 2017.” Japan’s plutonium in the UK will rise by another 0.6 metric tons by 2019, after proper crediting of additional plutonium separated from Japanese spent fuel by reprocessing in the United Kingdom.

34.  JAEC, “The Basic Principles on Japan’s Utilization of Plutonium,” July 31, 2018, http://www.aec.go.jp/jicst/NC/iinkai/teirei/3-3set.pdf.

35.  UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), “Plutonium Deal Brings Security Benefits,” July 3, 2014, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/plutonium-deal-brings-security-benefits--2; DECC, “Statement by Michael Fallon: Management of Overseas Owned Plutonium in the UK,” April 23, 2013, https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/management-of-overseas-owned-plutonium-in-the-uk; UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, “Management of Overseas Owned Plutonium in the UK,” HLWS425, January 19, 2017, https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Lords/2017-01-19/HLWS425/.

36. “MOX imports have cost at least ¥99.4 billion, much higher than uranium fuel,” Energy Monitor Worldwide, February 23, 2015.


Alan J. Kuperman is an associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is coordinator of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project (NPPP). Hina Acharya is a 2018 graduate of the school’s Master of Global Policy Studies program. This article draws on her chapter, “MOX in Japan: Ambitious Plans Derailed,” in the NPPP’s recent book Plutonium for Energy? Explaining the Global Decline of MOX. Research for this article was supported by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.


Why Japan needs a different plan to attain its stated goal of reducing its plutonium stockpile.

Japan Expands Ballistic Missile Defenses

September 2018
By Monica Montgomery

Japan has advanced its planned ballistic missile defense system in recent months by launching a new destroyer and securing a contract for the Aegis Ashore system, despite rising costs and reduced tensions with North Korea that could encourage opposition to the plans.

Visiting Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe listen to a briefing on the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) surface-to-air missile system while visiting the Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces' Camp Narashino on January 18. (Photo: Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images)Japan operates a ballistic missile defense system, with Aegis-equipped warships providing the first line of defense against an incoming missile during its midcourse trajectory. Japan’s second line of defense is its Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) mobile systems that can be deployed to protect high-value targets, such as military bases and cities, using hit-to-kill interceptors during the terminal phase of an incoming missile’s flight path.

The planned expansion includes adding a land-based Aegis system and additional sea-based capabilities.

The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force launched the first of two modified Atago-class destroyers on July 30. The warship Maya is equipped with the Aegis Baseline J7 combat system and the Northrop Grumman AN/SPQ-9B radar system.

In addition, Japan operates four Kongo-class destroyers with Aegis missile defense systems and Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IA interceptors. The other modified Atago-class destroyer is to be launched in March 2021, and Japan is planning to have two more Aegis-equipped destroyers, bringing the total fleet of ballistic missile defense destroyers to eight by 2021.

Japan plans to arm all its missile defense warships with SM-3 Block IIA interceptors after testing by the United States and Japan is completed. The new interceptors have a greater range and are designed to intercept missiles traveling at faster speeds. But the Block IIA missile has failed two of three intercept tests, most recently on Jan. 31. (See ACT, March 2018.)

In another development, the Japanese Defense Ministry announced on July 30 that it has chosen the Lockheed Martin Solid State Radar (SSR) for its two Aegis Ashore batteries. These are a new, less powerful variant of Lockheed Martin’s Long Range Discrimination Radar, which is being designed for the United States. Japan selected the Lockheed Martin system over Raytheon’s Air and Missile Defense Radar, citing the SSR’s better overall system performance and lower life-cycle costs.

The decision is seen as risky by some because the Japanese government chose an unproven developmental radar over one with demonstrated operational capability. Additionally, the defense ministry now estimates the system acquisition cost will be $3.6 billion, up from the $2 billion original estimate. The higher cost is attributed to the choice of the SSR system and the SM-3 Block IIA interceptors.

 The Japanese cabinet approved funds for two Aegis Ashore systems in December 2017. Japan’s move to beef up its ballistic missile defenses is largely seen as a response to the North Korean threat. Although North Korea currently has a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests as a part of its diplomacy with the Trump administration and South Korea, Pyongyang in recent years conducted multiple tests over the Sea of Japan, with some missiles splashing down in the Japanese exclusive economic zone. But state-run Korean Central News Agency said on Aug. 9 that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ballistic missile defense push while citing a North Korean threat is “no more than [a] reckless military move to attain its sinister political aims.”

The Aegis Ashore expansion may also draw criticism from China, which has objected to the deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea. Seoul says the system is a response to the North Korean missile threat, but China considers the deployment a provocative move and claims the system could contribute to U.S. detection of Chinese missiles.

With regard to Japan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in December 2017 that “due to what happened in history, Japan’s moves in the fields of military and security are always followed closely by its Asian neighbors” and that “the missile defense issue should be handled cautiously.”

Additionally, Russia conveyed its concern over Japan’s planned Aegis Ashore system, calling it an expansion of U.S. missile defenses in the Asia-Pacific region, during in a July 31 meeting between Japanese and Russian defense and foreign ministers.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cites the North Korean missile threat.

U.S., Japan Extend Nuclear Agreement

The United States and Japan automatically extended a 1988 civilian nuclear pact on July 17 as Japanese officials pledged to address concerns about Japan’s substantial plutonium stockpile. The agreement allowed either side to request a review of the deal, but neither side chose to do so. Under its terms, the pact remains in force in perpetuity but each side, if it chooses, is able to terminate the agreement by giving six months’ written notice. Japan’s civilian nuclear cooperation agreement, known as a 123 agreement setting U.S. terms for sharing nuclear energy technology, is unique and controversial due to the blanket consent that it provides Tokyo to enrich uranium and extract plutonium from U.S.-origin spent nuclear fuel. Enrichment and reprocessing activities are considered sensitive because they can be used to make fuel for power reactors and produce the explosive material for nuclear weapons.

Japan had more than 47 tons of plutonium as of 2016, enough to produce around 6,000 nuclear warheads. Ten tons of this material are stored in Japan while the remainder is held in France and the United Kingdom. Critics fear that these materials could be used to build nuclear weapons, thereby granting Japan a latent nuclear weapons capability. The Nikkei Asian Review reported that prior to the pact’s extension, the United States demanded Japan make efforts to reduce the stockpile. On July 31, Japan’s nuclear energy commission adopted a guideline to cap plutonium production and eventually reduce the stockpile, but it provided no timeline or specifics on a plan to do so.—MONICA MONTGOMERY

U.S., Japan Extend Nuclear Agreement

ACA Board Chair on Pathways to a Nuclear Weapon Free World



Pathways to a Nuclear Weapon Free World

Remarks by Thomas Countryman
Chairman of the Arms Control Association
to the International Symposium for Peace 
Nagasaki, Japan
July 28, 2018


Panelists discuss working toward sustainable peace at the International Symposium for Peace “The Road to Nuclear Weapons Abolition” held on July 28 in Nagasaki. (Photo: Kengo Hiyoshi/Asahi Shimbun) Let me thank the organizers of today’s conference for bringing me again to Japan. In my current focus outside the government of the United States, continuing to push for real progress on nonproliferation and arms control measures, it's always a special pleasure to come to Japan. The Japanese role in leading the international diplomatic challenge to create the highest standards in arms control and nonproliferation is unparalleled. Not only as a partner of the United States but in its own leadership role, Japan has done much to create the modern nonproliferation regime that has greatly reduced but not yet eliminated the threat that weapons of mass destruction pose to all of us.

It is especially moving to be here in Nagasaki. Visiting the memorial yesterday, a sacred place, brought back to me what President Abraham Lincoln said at the site of the bloodiest battle America ever witnessed: that those who have fallen on this site “have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract”. I sensed on this spot what no book can convey: the enormous challenge and the risk that humanity continues to face in the presence of 15,000 nuclear weapons in this world. Here I want to commend the very special role the hibakusha have played in preserving vital lessons for the memory of humanity. For 70 years, they have spread the simple truth that a human being is not just a statistic. They will touch future generations long after their own has passed from this world. I wish that every American and every world leader would have the opportunity to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki as I have.

Current Challenges

It is much easier to talk about the challenges to nuclear disarmament than it is to describe a simple path to a world free of nuclear weapons. So let me dwell first on the current challenges that we face.

First, the two major nuclear powers, the United States and the Russian Federation, have passed a turning point in their nuclear doctrines and nuclear arsenals. After about 40 years of a steady decrease in the size and diversity of their nuclear arsenals and the mission that each assigned to their nuclear weapons, both Washington and Moscow have turned a corner towards expanding the size and variety of arsenals and the circumstances for their use.

U.S. 2018 Nuclear Posture Review

The U.S. administration’s Nuclear Posture Review from this February is not a radical change from the previous nuclear posture but it is a significant change in direction. In calling for the development of new low-yield nuclear weapons, the United States is thinking more actively and – in my view - making more thinkable the use of low-yield nuclear weapons in the context of a conventional conflict. As so many have pointed out, there is no such thing as a limited nuclear war once that threshold has been crossed. “A nuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon," George Shultz, who served as President Ronald Reagan's top diplomat, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in January. "You use a small one, then you go to a bigger one. I think nuclear weapons are nuclear weapons and we need to draw the line there."

Secondly, the Nuclear Posture Review describes with more specificity than before circumstances under which the United States would consider the use of nuclear weapons to encompass not only first use by an opponent but also a response to a devastating attack by cyber or other means. Just two years ago, the Obama administration considered carefully the possibility of proclaiming a no-first-use doctrine for U.S. nuclear weapons. That U.S. policy has now shifted towards a broader definition of possible first use is of deep concern to me.

Finally, I am most disappointed in the Nuclear Posture Review in that it effectively renounces the traditional leadership that the U.S has exercised on non-proliferation and arms control issues. It makes no mention of America’s binding legal obligation under Article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to pursue a reduction in arsenals. It makes no new proposals for how the U.S. will move forward in negotiations with Russia and others. And it defers any meaningful action until security conditions in the world have improved. This retreat from global leadership, whether in arms control, in climate policy or in free trade agreements is unworthy of a nation that claims to be a superpower.


As concerned as I am about the direction of U.S. policy, I am even more concerned about the continuing development by Russia of new weapons and new delivery methods. Russia seems driven by an exaggerated fear, in fact, a paranoia, about the future capabilities of U.S. missile defense. I call these fears exaggerated because I believe that missile defense can never provide an impenetrable shield. Russia is building not only new generations of ICBMs but even more dangerous weapons systems that seem to step out of the pages of a science fiction comic book, including a nuclear torpedo of unlimited range and a nuclear-powered cruise missile. Russia seems intent on probing the boundaries of existing arms control agreements, particularly the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty which laid the basis for the next 25 years of successful arms limitations. Even more than the uninformed statements by the U.S. president, the rhetoric of the Russian president - increasingly defining Russia’s national power as a function of its nuclear arsenal - erodes both the prospect of future arms control and the moral taboo against initiating the use of nuclear weapons. The 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is due to expire in 2021 and although President Putin has raised the prospect of extending the treaty, President Trump has so far rebuffed such proposals.

Joint Comprehensive Program Of Action

In the shorter term, I am especially concerned about the U.S. decision to withdraw from, that is to violate, the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action with Iran. This agreement is unprecedented, both in its inspection and verification requirements, and it prevented the risk of a tenth state breaking into the nuclear weapons club. I do not believe that Iranian development of a nuclear weapon is imminent but I am deeply concerned about the follow-on effects of this decision, that is the undermining of U.S. credibility and commitment to any agreement, the creation of a serious dispute between the U.S. and its best allies in Europe and Asia, the erosion of the international rules-based order and a resurgent radicalism in Iran.

North Korea

I am less pessimistic but still deeply concerned about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. President Trump did the right thing, trading in violent rhetoric for an opportunity for dialogue. There are dozens of reasons to distrust North Korea’s approach to negotiations and to doubt the capability of the Trump administration to negotiate a meaningful, verifiable denuclearization of North Korea. But the pursuit of negotiation is far preferable to simply sleepwalking towards war, as we seemed to be doing a year ago.

Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT)

The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty remains central to our shared global ambition to prevent the development of new nuclear weapons and to reduce existing arsenals. On the surface, the deliberations at NPT conferences often seem utterly divorced from the real world. In fact, all the concerns I’ve just listed have a real effect on the degree of consensus you can reach among NPT parties and on the commitment that other parties show to the treaty.

For the 2020 Review Conference, I can foresee the worst but I am determined to work for the best. The RevCon can easily be upset either by the U.S. and Russia sniping at each other or by the continued inability of the states in the Middle East to sit down together and begin the process of discussing a nuclear-weapon-free-zone in the Middle East. But the most severe threat to the unity of states-parties is the growing frustration of non-nuclear weapon states with the pace of nuclear disarmament. Seeing no new U.S.-Russian agreements since 2010 and the new threatening developments in Washington and Moscow that I’ve already described, the majority of the world’s non-nuclear weapon states have made clear that they will demand more urgent progress in 2020.

Moving Towards a Nuclear Weapon Free World

So what can we do to move towards a world free from nuclear weapons?

Near-Term Steps

There are a number of steps that the United States and Russia could take right now that would change the current trajectory. First and most simply, to hear President Trump and President Putin repeat what Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan said in 1985 - that a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought - would be of value, would provide some reassurance that these two leaders understand their responsibilities to humanity. Secondly, the United States and Russia need to extend New START. Third, they need to make a political decision to work harder on resolving the dispute about compliance with the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty. And fourth there needs to be a more regular dialogue between Moscow and Washington on both the military and political level, to pursue risk reduction measures that would prevent a conventional conflict from escalating to a nuclear one and to explore other steps that would allow each to maintain security at a lower level of armament. Finally, the United States should reassert the leadership it showed after 2010 when it led an intensive dialogue among the P5 nuclear-weapon states to give the world greater transparency, to reduce nuclear risks, and to lay the groundwork for future multilateral arms control.

It’s not easy to get either Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin to do something that reminds them of Mikhail Gorbachev or Barack Obama. In fact, it’s not easy to get them to do something unless you can convince them that it was their own brilliant idea. But it is an obligation of the rest of the world to continue to press for this. I know from my own experience with bilateral diplomacy that meetings with either Russian or American leaders always have an agenda filled with urgent items and that concerns about long-term items such as arms control simply fall out of the conversation. It is crucial that not only Japanese leaders but all world leaders press both Presidents to take serious action.

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Beyond Moscow and Washington, what can non-nuclear weapon states do for themselves to move us towards a nuclear-weapon-free world? Many non-nuclear weapon states have sought to answer that question by negotiating a new treaty banning nuclear weapons, adopted last July.

The drafting of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons last year was historic. Some would like to see it as simply an expression of frustration on the part of the non-nuclear weapon states. It’s a lot more than that. It is a strong moral and ethical statement. And more than that, it is something tangible, something that can be touched by the hibakusha and the citizens of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It is a statement of reality that the risk of nuclear war is not born only by the nuclear-weapon states but by the entire world. And it is intended to serve as an impulse for further action globally on nuclear disarmament. I’m well aware of its limitations. The TPNW will not by itself immediately eliminate any nuclear weapons. And it does not provide a pathway for Washington and Moscow to overcome their current impasse.

I don’t see the discussion between advocates and skeptics of the TPNW as being an argument about practicalities or about whether this treaty can work. It is - or it should be - a respectful discussion about deterrence. Nations that face no immediate military threat tend to underestimate the importance that military alliances and military deterrence play for those states that do face actual military threats. Similarly, those states whether in Europe or in Asia that feel reassurance under the nuclear umbrella of the United States tend not to appreciate how strongly concerned other states are about the disastrous humanitarian effects that a nuclear war would cause.

What is needed now is a multi-sided discussion on a topic that is easy to define and extremely difficult to resolve: how to guarantee the security of the world and of each nation without resort to nuclear deterrence. This is a discussion that has to bring together not only the idealists and social activists who helped to bring about the TPNW but also the security experts and military leaders who have the responsibility of providing for their nations’ security. It has to bring together not only nuclear-weapon states but those who are allies of nuclear-weapon states and those who feel themselves to be far from any military threat. Given my own experience with the ineffectiveness of the United Nations as a place to discuss such difficult issues, I think it has to start smaller than a conference of 190 countries.

UN Secretary-General’s Disarmament Agenda

Washington and Moscow are not going to lead this discussion. What can the rest of the world do? The UN Secretary General has laid out a comprehensive blueprint on what needs to be done on disarmament issues to provide genuine security for our citizens. I love the document. I’d like to focus in particular on what he says about nuclear disarmament.

He calls on the United States and Russia to resolve INF compliance concerns, extend New START and pursue additional reductions. He encourages all states to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, to negotiate a fissile material cutoff treaty, establish a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, pursue nuclear risk reduction measures, and develop nuclear disarmament verification standards and techniques. He warned that the international community is moving backward on disarmament. “Let us all work together to bring new urgency to achieve the universal goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world,” he said while unveiling his agenda at the University of Geneva in late May.

So how do we take forward an idea on which not only everyone in this room but most of the world is united upon?

Joint Enterprise

Now is the time to convene a high-level summit approach to help overcome the impasse on nuclear disarmament. Leaders from a core group of states can invite their counterparts - 20 to 30 heads of states of nuclear weapon and non-nuclear weapon countries - to join a one or two day summit on steps to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. This could be a starting point for ongoing regular disarmament discussions at the expert and ministerial level. As the former foreign minister Kishida argued, this dialogue must be based both on a clear understanding of the devastating impact of nuclear weapon use and an objective assessment of the security concerns of states.

This is not a new idea. Four of the best American thinkers on such issues - George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn - have been arguing for several years for a Joint Enterprise, a new multilateral effort that would take concrete, practical steps to create the conditions that would make possible genuine nuclear disarmament. As outlined by the “four horsemen,” a Joint Enterprise summit would be supplemented by a joint communique from all participating states and national commitments to work towards disarmament. Unfortunately, the leadership of such an effort will not come from either Washington or Moscow. When the long-time ‘leader of the free world’ is deliberately stepping away from leadership, the other democratic nations of the world must take up the challenge. It’s up to Japan, to Germany, to Canada, to other nations that still believe in multilateralism to get this effort started.

Discussion of the conditions that would help achieve a nuclear weapons-free world must become as common among world leaders as discussions about tariffs or immigration. The constant raising of this topic is the responsibility of Presidents and Prime Ministers, and it is the duty of citizens of all nations to remind their leaders of this responsibility.

It is written in Pirkei Avot, a well-known Jewish text, that “you are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” Here in Nagasaki, we say again that all of us – elected leaders, civil society organizations, and ordinary citizens – “we will not desist from this duty.”

Thank you and God bless you!




Remarks by Thomas Countryman to the International Symposium for Peace in Nagasaki, Japan

Japan Looks to Purchase Cruise Missiles

July/August 2018
By Monica Montgomery

Japan is moving forward with its plans to purchase mid- to long-range air-launched cruise missiles, which would give Tokyo the capability to conduct pre-emptive military strikes against North Korea.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis welcomes Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera during an honor cordon at the Pentagon on April 20.  (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)The defense budget for fiscal year 2018, approved at the end of March by the Japanese bicameral legislature, the Diet, included funds to introduce cruise missiles to the country’s overall military capabilities. Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera first officially announced Japan’s intentions to purchase the missiles in December 2017, saying that they would be used exclusively for defense purposes as “stand-off missiles that can be fired beyond the range of enemy threats.”

Japanese lawmakers have been more vocal, however, about the intentions behind the procurement of the new weapons, citing the need for a first-strike capability against North Korea. “It is time we acquired the capability; I don’t know whether that could be with ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, or even the F-35 [fighter jet], but without deterrence North Korea will see us as weak,” said Hiroshi Imazu, a member of Japan’s House of Representatives and chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) security policy council.

North Korea currently has a self-imposed moratorium on all nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests as a part of its recent effort to diplomatically engage with the Trump administration, but has conducted tests over the Sea of Japan in recent years with multiple missiles landing in the Japanese exclusive economic zone.

The budget allocated 2.2 billion yen ($20 million) for the purchase of the Joint Strike Missile (JSM) for its F-35A stealth fighters and 30 million yen ($270,000) for research on modifying existing Japanese F-15 fighters to be equipped with Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASM) and extended-range Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSM-ER).

The JSM and LRASM have a range of 500 kilometers (310 miles), and the JASSM-ER can reach targets up to 1000 kilometers away. Compared to the 300-kilometer limit of current Japan Self-Defense Force missiles, the JSM, JASSM-ER, and LRASM could be used to strike North Korean missiles on the launch pad. Additionally, the missiles would have the range to counter strike threats from China, as tensions continue to rise in the East and South China seas.

The purchase of the cruise missiles and the logic behind their use presents a potential legal issue of constitutionality. Written in the wake of World War II, Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution renounces war and the threat of force as a method for resolving international disputes and states that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”

Japan justifies the maintenance of its current military capabilities by its explicit self-defense purpose. Onodera has asserted that striking a nuclear-tipped missile on an enemy base falls under this category of self-defense if the attack is imminent and “no other options exist,” but the new cruise missiles may be perceived as offensive weapons with more war potential than any other existing Japanese military capability.

According to a 2017 Defense Ministry report, the acquisition of certain types of offensive weaponry is not permissible under any circumstance. But if the Diet approves funding for a new military capability not explicitly prohibited, such as cruise missiles, then it is seen as compatible with the constitution’s requirement of possessing only what is minimally required for self-defense.

Regardless, the cruise missile issue adds to the overall debate in Japan about the need to reconcile actual military capabilities and intentions with constitutional constraints.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed his desire for constitutional changes to explicitly incorporate the defense forces into the document, and in May 2017, he set a goal of doing so by 2020. Abe’s proposed change still would not allow for offensive military actions, but could certainly open the way to a more military-friendly constitution. Amending the constitution would require approval from two-thirds of the Diet and the majority of voters in a referendum.

Plans to buy cruise missiles raise the issue of what is permitted militarily by Japan’s constitution.

India, Japan Nuclear Deal Implemented

A civil nuclear partnership deal between India and Japan entered into force July 20following an exchange of diplomatic notes. The agreement had been announced at a joint press conference Nov. 11 by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after six years of negotiations. (See ACT, December 2016.) The deal paves the way for an ambitious expansion of India’s civilian nuclear power program through purchases of material and technologies from Japan. New Delhi plans to nearly double its current nuclear energy capacity by 2022. “The agreement seeks to promote full cooperation. . . in the development and uses of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,” according to a spokesperson at the Indian External Affairs Ministry.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, make a toast during a banquet at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo on November 11, 2016. (Photo credit: Kiyoshi Ota/AFP/Getty Images)The deal marks the first agreement between Japan and a state that has not ratified the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Although not an NPT member, India received a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008 allowing it to conduct nuclear commerce for peaceful purposes. (See ACT, October 2008.) Multiple measures have been put in place under the deal to ensure nuclear transfers are channeled to peaceful purposes. New Delhi’s nuclear material and technology purchases will be subject to International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, and the deal can be nullified if India were to conduct a nuclear test. Further, in the event of such a test, Tokyo can require that any material or technology sales resulting from the deal be returned.—TYLER RODGERS

India, Japan Nuclear Deal Implemented

Japan Considers Cruise Missile Purchase

Japan is considering whether to buy cruise missiles due to the increasing threat posed by North Korea’s ballistic missile development, according to officials quoted in The Japan Times on May 6. The government may include funds in the fiscal year 2018 budget for studying the feasibility of purchasing U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles, according to the report. The missiles would likely be deployed on Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force Fleet.

North Korea’s ballistic missiles are capable of reaching Japan, and several North Korean ballistic missiles have splashed down in Japan’s territorial waters during tests. Although the purchase of Tomahawks may be viewed as contrary to Tokyo’s defensive military posture, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in January that striking North Korean launch sites would be self-defense. Japan would need to revise its five-year plan for a defensive buildup and its 10-year defense program guidelines, both set in 2013, before any purchase. The United States uses Tomahawk cruise missiles for conventional strikes, but has deployed several Tomahawk variants armed with nuclear warheads.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

Japan Considers Cruise Missile Purchase

Japan's Special $2.43 million USD Contribution to the CTBTO

Japan announced its largest, voluntary contribution of $2.43 million (USD) to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Feb. 23 to improve the organization's verification capabilities to detect nuclear explosions around the world. CTBTO Executive Secretary Dr. Lassina Zerbo praised the act, telling Permanent Representative of Japan, Ambassador Mitsuru Kitano, “This generous contribution will further build-up the International Monitoring System’s capacity to improve our radionuclide monitoring technology, which can conclusively establish whether a nuclear test explosion has...

The Role of NGOs in the New Nuclear Age



The Role of NGOs in the New Nuclear Age
Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director
26th United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues
Nagasaki, Japan, December 2016

Thank you Akira. Thank you to the organizers and hosts of this very important conference.

It is an honor to be here once again in Nagasaki for this important gathering.

As several other panelists and speakers have noted, civil society has an important role and responsibility to play in the cause of disarmament. 

The rebuilt Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, Japan. It was 500m from the hypocenter of the world’s second atomic attack on a city. Urakami was the largest Catholic cathedral in the eastern hemisphere before it was destroyed on August 9, 1945. (Photo: Arms Control Association)For decades, citizen diplomats, scientists, physicians, students, and concerned people the world over have successfully pushed their leaders to achieve nuclear disarmament.

But there are tough challenges ahead.

Tensions between the world’s nuclear-armed states are on the rise once again, and progress on nuclear disarmament is stalled.

Nuclear-armed states are engaged in technological arms race.

North Korea may soon have an operational arsenal of nuclear-armed ballistic missiles that can hit all of East Asia.

The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is under increasing stress.

The election of Donald Trump to the White House will not make things any easier.

Unlike President Barack Obama, who came into the White House with a detailed nuclear threat reduction game plan, Trump has no discernable strategy for managing today’s most daunting nuclear dangers.

As a result, Mr. Trump cabinet appointees will likely have wide latitude in determining policy, which could mean that the administration seek significant changes in established U.S. nonproliferation and disarmament policy.

Hard-won nonproliferation, nuclear risk reduction, and nonproliferation successes, and even the taboo against the use of nuclear weapons, cannot be taken for granted.

What can NGOs do in these difficult times?

As we have successfully done years past when nuclear dangers were growing, we must:

  • act with even greater urgency to defend and build upon past disarmament and nonproliferation gains, particularly the CTBT; INF and New START;
  • The successful and effective Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) is at risk. I would note that the Israeli PM has in an interview aired Sunday said that he would advise Mr. Trump on ways to unravel the JCPoA. Responsible diplomats and experts understand that such actions would set back the nonproliferation and disarmament cause. Civil society groups in Israel, the United States and elsewhere must counter such developments.
  • continue to make the security case for deeper nuclear reductions, removing weapons from prompt-launch status, banning nuclear testing, preventing new warhead development;
  • encourage meaningful diplomatic engagement with North Korea to cap its nuclear weapons and missile capabilities and reduce tensions in the region;
  • strengthen ties with governmental and nongovernmental partners around the globe. In the United States, a number of NGOs are discussing the formation of a new, cross-sector “Campaign to Reduce and Eliminate Nuclear Dangers;"
  • engage with new constituencies and stakeholders who have not been engaged on the nuclear weapons and disarmament issue, particularly members of the younger generation in the nuclear armed-states and nonnuclear weapon states; and
  • put meaningful pressure on government officials to advance practical, concrete nuclear risk reduction and disarmament initiatives.

There are many different NGOs and strategies. Each is valuable and has something to offer. Each has their approach and policy prescription. There is no all-in-one solution.

The Negotiation of a Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons

One important new step that can reduce the salience of nuclear weapons is the forthcoming negotiation of a new instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.

Contrary to some skeptics, this process is not a distraction, nor will it undermine the NPT, as some fear.

The strong support for negotiations on a ban treaty needs to be understood as a logical international response to the underwhelming pace of progress by the world’s nine nuclear-armed states on nuclear disarmament in recent years.

Let be clear: these underlying trends are what threaten the NPT, not the ban treaty negotiations.

In order to attain a world free of nuclear weapons, it will be necessary, at some point, to establish a legally-binding norm to prohibit such weapons. As such, the pursuit of a treaty banning the development, production, possession and use of nuclear weapons is a key step along the way.

This new process has the potential to further delegitimize nuclear weapons and strengthen the legal and political norm against their use—a worthy goal.

The coming ban treaty negotiations are not an all-in-one solution, but do represent an important new contribution.

Those states and NGOs involved in the negotiation – and we plan to be among them – have some difficult work ahead. To be effective, the instrument will need to:

  • Specify which activities related to nuclear weapons possession, planning, development, production, and testing are prohibited. Each of these prohibitions must be effectively verifiable, even if this negotiation does not elaborate the monitoring and verification regime.
  • Compliment and perhaps enhance existing treaties that prohibit or limit certain nuclear weapons-related activities, including the CTBT, the current nuclear weapons free zone treaties, and the NPT, among others.
  • Provide a pathway or pathways for states that now possess nuclear weapons or are part of alliances with nuclear-armed states to join the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty.

The negotiators should seek a formula that is meaningful but also draws the widest possible support from states participating in the negotiation. Consensus should be the goal but not a requirement for agreement on the final outcome. States such as Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, and China that expressed some reservations about the initiative should nonetheless participate in the negotiations.

The coming ban treaty negotiations are not a substitute for necessary, progressive steps on nuclear disarmament, Nor will the process necessarily lead the nuclear-armed states to act with urgency to fulfill their nuclear disarmament obligations.

Repeating the mantra that “we must patiently pursue a step-by-step approach on disarmament” does not constitute an effective or responsible strategy.

Diplomats, NGOs and political leaders can and must do better.

Certainly, the nuclear-armed states—particularly the United States, Russia, China, India and Pakistan—can and should do more to overcome old obstacles and animosities to advance disarmament and nuclear risk reduction measures. But we cannot count on these governments to provide leadership.

Middle powers, including Japan, Germany, Sweden, Mexico, South Africa, Indonesia, Brazil, Poland, Malaysia, and others, have an important role to play to provide leadership and fresh ideas on key nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation initiatives.

One way to bridge the growing divide on disarmament and to create new momentum might be to convene a series of conferences or a series of “summits” that bring together high-level representatives of nuclear and nonnuclear weapon states for disarmament discussions and outside of the moribund Conference on Disarmament.

Achieving and maintaining a world without nuclear weapons requires bold and sustained action.

As President Obama said earlier this year when he visited Hiroshima: “we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.”


Remarks by Daryl G. Kimball at the 26th United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues, Nagasaki, Japan, December 2016

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