Japan and weapons of mass destruction

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Beginning in the mid-1930s, the nation of Japan conducted numerous attempts to acquire and develop weapons of mass destruction. The 1943 Battle of Changde saw Japanese use of both bioweapons and chemical weapons, and the Japanese conducted a serious, though futile, nuclear weapon program. After the end of World War II the nation was forced to cease all production and abandoned their experiments.

Since World War II, Japan has become a nuclear-capable state, said to be a "screwdrivers turn" away from nuclear weapons, having the capacity, the know-how, and the materials to make a nuclear bomb. Japan has consistently eschewed any desire to have nuclear weapons, and no mainstream Japanese party has ever advocated acquisition of nuclear weapons or any weapons of mass destruction. Such weapons are forbidden by the Japanese constitution.


Main article: Unit 731

During the Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) and World War II, Unit 731 and other Special Research Units of the Imperial Japanese Army conducted human experimentation on thousands, mostly Chinese, Russian, American and other nationalities as well as some Japanese criminals from the Japanese mainlands.[1] In military campaigns, the Japanese army used biological weapons on Chinese soldiers and civilians.[citation needed]

This employment was largely viewed as ineffective, due to inefficient delivery systems. However, information has surfaced in the last decade, which alleges a more active Japanese usage. For example, firsthand accounts testify the Japanese infected civilians through the distribution of plague-infested foodstuffs, such as dumplings and vegetables.[citation needed]

During Changde chemical weapon attack attacks, the Japanese also employed biological warfare by intentionally spreading cholera, dysentery, typhoid, bubonic plague, and anthrax. Other battles include: Kaimingye germ weapon attack.[citation needed]

Chemical weapons

The Japanese used mustard gas and the blister agent Lewisite, against Chinese troops and guerillas in China, amongst others during the Changde chemical weapon attack.

Experiments involving chemical weapons were conducted on live prisoners (Unit 516). As of 2005, 60 years after the end of the war, canisters that were abandoned by Japan in their hasty retreat are still being dug up in construction sites, causing injuries and allegedly even deaths.

In December 1993, Japan signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, ratified it in 1995 and was thus a state party upon entering into force in 1997.[2]

However, JSDF possess chemical weapons facilities and some samples for protection which it said JGSDF Central NBC protection Troop.[clarification needed]

In 1995, JGSDF admitted possession of sarin for samples.[citation needed]

Nuclear weapons

A Japanese program to develop nuclear weapons was conducted during World War II. Like the German nuclear weapons program, it suffered from an array of problems, and was ultimately unable to progress beyond the laboratory stage before the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Japanese surrender in August 1945.

The postwar Constitution forbids the establishment of offensive military forces, and in 1967 it adopted the Three Non-Nuclear Principles, ruling out the production, possession, or introduction of nuclear weapons.

While there are currently no known plans in Japan to produce nuclear weapons, it has been argued that Japan has the technology, raw materials, and the capital to produce nuclear weapons within one year if necessary, and some analysts consider it a de facto nuclear state for this reason.[3] For this reason Japan is often said to be a "screwdriver's turn"[4][5] away from possessing nuclear weapons.

Delivery systems

Main articles: M-V, Epsilon (rocket) and J-I

Solid fuel rockets are the design of choice for military applications as they can remain in storage for long periods, and then reliably launch at short notice.

Lawmakers made national security arguments for keeping Japan's solid-fuel rocket technology alive after ISAS was merged into the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which also has the H-IIA liquid-fuelled rocket, in 2003. The ISAS director of external affairs, Yasunori Matogawa, said, "It seems the hard-line national security proponents in parliament are increasing their influence, and they aren't getting much criticism…I think we’re moving into a very dangerous period. When you consider the current environment and the threat from North Korea, it’s scary."[6]

Toshiyuki Shikata, a government adviser and former lieutenant general, indicated that part of the rationale for the fifth M-V Hayabusa mission was that the reentry and landing of its return capsule demonstrated "that Japan's ballistic missile capability is credible."[7]

At a technical level the M-V design could be weaponised quickly (as an Intercontinental ballistic missile) although this would be politically unlikely.[8]

See also


  1. AII POW-MIA Unit 731
  2. "Member states of the OPCW". OPCW. Retrieved 2010-09-17. 
  4. "Nuclear Scholars Initiative 2010: Recap of Seminar Four". CSIS. Retrieved 29 June 2010. 
  5. Brumfiel, Geoff (November 2004). "Nuclear proliferation special: We have the technology". Nature. 432–437. 432 (7016): 432–7. Bibcode:2004Natur.432..432B. PMID 15565123. doi:10.1038/432432a. Retrieved 29 June 2010. 
  6. Karl Schoenberger (July 11, 2003). "Japan ponders nuclear weapons". Detroit Free Press. Archived from the original on June 25, 2004. 
  7. Chester Dawson (28 October 2011). "In Japan, Provocative Case for Staying Nuclear". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  8. William E. Rapp (January 2004). "Paths Diverging? The Next Decade in the US-Japan Security Alliance" (PDF). Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College: 82. Retrieved 29 October 2012. 119. Japan has the weapons grade plutonium, technology for weaponization, and delivery means in the M-V-5 rocket, indigenous, solid fueled, 1800kg payload capacity, to go nuclear very rapidly should it choose. This dramatic step, however, would require a complete loss of faith in the American nuclear umbrella