Tokyo Weighs Risks and Rewards of Atoms for War

By Thomas Cynkin

Dr. Thomas Cynkin is Vice President at the Daniel Morgan Graduate School, and Adjunct Professor of Economics at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.  Cynkin previously headed the Washington Office of Fujitsu Ltd. as Vice President and General Manager.  A former Foreign Service Officer, he served seven years as a Japanese-speaking diplomat in Japan, and was the Asian affairs advisor to two Deputy Secretaries of State and two US Ambassadors to the UN.

Japan has the means, motive, and opportunity to produce nuclear weapons. However, as a matter of long-standing policy, Tokyo has kept its options open, as long as it can rely on the U.S. nuclear umbrella. The perception is widespread that, due to its history as the only country upon which a nuclear weapon has been used, Japan has an innate nuclear allergy that precludes it from going down the path of nuclear proliferation.

This is partially true, but Japanese leaders have also preserved Japan’s nuclear option both by carefully and consistently articulating Japan’s policy in this regard, and by nurturing Japan’s actual capacity to produce and deploy nuclear weapons. In addition to its intrinsic merit, this nuclear latency approach serves to convince the U.S. that it must continually reassure Japan of the credibility of its nuclear umbrella to prevent Japan going nuclear.

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