Next week, President Obama will embark on an Asian tour which will include stops in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Yesterday at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) held a panel discussing what Obama’s visit means for the US-Japan alliance, the key lynchpin to American policy in East Asia. There was plenty for the four panel members to discuss.
I touched on the problems of Japanese nuclear security in an earlier post, but one thing I did not discuss was that Japan already has a large stockpile of plutonium and uranium, not only stored in Japan itself, but in France and Britain. This plutonium was supplied to Japan by the United States during the Cold War, and it appears that Japan will be handing them back.
This is without a doubt a very good thing. Just as an Iranian nuclear bomb is bad for global peace as it could spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, a Japanese nuke would be a possible spark towards creating a arms race in the even more vital East Asia. North Korea is already dangerous enough – South Korea, which doesn’t particularly trust the United States to begin with, having nukes on their own would do nothing for the sake of stability. It should be noted, however, that despite this transfer, Japan has without a doubt the scientific and technological know-how to make a nuclear bomb within a time frame of 6 months to 2 years should it so desire, but there is really nothing which can be done about that.
As this shows, a Reuters poll asked American citizens for some of their thoughts on the current US oil production boom, even though nearly three-quarters of this nation freely conceded that they knew little to nothing about US oil production.
Just today, it has been announced that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye. It will be the first time the two have met even though Park was elected into her office over a year ago. The reason has been the continued controversial nationalistic debates between Japan, South Korea, and China, related to Japan’s war crimes in the period leading up to the Pacific War.
So often, whenever discussions about this appear, the immediate reaction I have to see in America is to blame Japan. “Why don’t they apologize?” “Why do they still publish those textbooks which deny everything?” “Are they planning to repeat what they did 70 years ago?” And so on, and so on. But like so much of international politics, it is not that simple. It is not a case of “South Korea right, Japan wrong.” It is not a case of “Japan right, South Korea wrong.” But since so much of this discussion tends to lean towards the former, I want to balance it out and give a defense of Japanese actions and how they have in fact, sincerely attempted to repent for their actions since the Imperial era.
In American political discussions on shale gas, hydraulic fracking, and the controversial Keystone pipeline, there has been surprisingly little discussions about what fracking can do for the world. Most discussions has tended to discuss about what it can do for the United States and the United States alone, whether it is positive claims of energy independence or more negative concerns about the possible environmental risks. Last week, the Energy Information Administration reported that American crude oil production has reached its highest levels since 1989, and noted continued oil production in growth in many of the key fracking areas in the US such as Eagle Ford in Texas and Bakken in North Dakota.
When the Fukushima Disaster struck Japan over three years ago, there was a national call to end nuclear power in the country. In response, practically every reactor in the country was shut down and that spelled an end to the peaceful nuclear ambitions of Japan – a country which had used nuclear power to produce approximately 25% of its power. Right?
Not quite. For in October 2014, Japan will begin operating a new $22 billion plutonium production plant. And on top of the surprising fact that Japan has not given up nuclear power completely, the Rokkasho Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Facility is a plutonium breeder reactor. Breeder reactors are capable of producing additional plutonium which could be used for further Japanese nuclear plants, but Japan for now is not planning to build more nuclear plants. But the plutonium used by Japanese plants is capable of being used for nuclear weapons – and while Japan currently has utterly no interest in creating nuclear weapons, the fact is that the new breeder reactor will be capable of churning out 96 tons of plutonium metal in the next dozen years.
Something to think about as we discuss an international order which is supposed to be growing more peaceful and interconnected. One of the most important moments in international relations, out of the Peleponnesian War that occurred more than 200 years ago.