The war in Ukraine has brought up a crisis of fuel, and so Germany and Japan are turning back to nuclear power in an unprecedented way since the Fukushima disaster in 2011. The Washington Post recently put out an article on this in which it says:
The war in Ukraine is reviving global interest in nuclear power, since gas and oil shortages have reshaped energy markets and driven up fossil fuel prices.
It sort of reminds me of the type of atmosphere that came about when ISIS was inflicting its horrific carnage in Iraq. Japan was talking about increasing its military spending after a Japanese man was beheaded by ISIS thugs. We are seeing the revival of Japan, and certain events — such as ISIS and the war in Ukraine — have created the circumstances for this to transpire. Now that Russia’s military is in Ukraine, Germany and Japan are working to not be dependent on Russian energy and so are turning towards nuclear power. Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that his government is forming next-generation nuclear power plants and plans on making them operational by the 2030s. Meanwhile, German policymakers are considering to prolong the life of three final nuclear power plants that had been planned to be shut down by the end of 2022. “We are in really special times,” said Dennis Tänzler, a director of Adelphi, a Berlin-based climate think. “The bottom line is that German climate and energy policy has been shaped since Fukushima by a cross-party consensus that overall the technological risks, the security risks, are just too great.”
Both Germany and Japan and looking more into nuclear power at a time when the two countries are competing to buy natural gas which is ten times more expensive in Europe than it was a year ago. But Germany is planning on prolonging the use of their nuclear plants temporarily, while Japan is talking about nuclear power in the long term. After the 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, Japan decided that it would not make any new nuclear power plants. In 2019, nuclear power only accounted for 6% of Japan’s electricity supply. Now Japan wants to increase this to 20% to 22%. Prime Minister Kishida envisions that by the summer of 2023, seventeen of Japan’s closed plants will be back in operation.
Since (in the words of National Geographic) “nuclear fuel can be used to create nuclear weapons as well as nuclear reactors”, the question is, could these countries one day use their nuclear energy to make nuclear weapons?
The issue of a German and Japanese nuclear armament was made known in a report addressed to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States Senate in 2008, entitled: Chain Reaction: Avoiding a Nuclear Arms Race in the Middle East, in which it says:
“In the cases of Germany and Japan, both countries can easily obtain nuclear weapons but have chosen not to because of their integration beneath a NATO (Germany) or an American (Japan) security umbrella. Today, all of these countries have the technical capacity to obtain nuclear weapons in a matter of months or a few short years. … If these countries ever begin to question the reliability of this security umbrella, they would almost certainly reassess past nuclear weapons decisions.”
On August 12th, 2018, the influential German political scientist, Christian Hacke, wrote an article for the National Interest entitled, Why Germany Should Get the Bomb, in which he says:
First of all, Berlin should try to accommodate the United States in terms of its security policy: Germany’s insufficient defense spending must be increased quickly and substantially. The half-hearted approach we have seen so far is not enough. … Germany’s new role as enemy number one of the United States president forces it to radically reconsider its security policy.
Particularly Germany, as President Trump’s new enemy, can no longer count on U.S. support. This forces us into a disturbing conclusion: for the first time since 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany is without the protection of the U.S. nuclear shield. Accordingly, in case of a serious crisis, Germany would be defenseless! Yet, who talks about this issue? Who presents a well-reasoned argument about possible consequences? Clearly, the German security debate is in need of more intellectual and material contributions. In order to again convince the United States that both NATO, as well as its member state Germany, are worth defending, Germany must think and act, especially in regard to nuclear deterrence, with a view toward the future. … Since the U.S. nuclear guarantee has become increasingly doubtful and a common European deterrent does not seem to be forthcoming, only one possible conclusion can be drawn: in a serious crisis the only one Germany can truly rely on is itself. … Thus, our attention turns to the elephant in the room, which nobody in Germany wants to acknowledge: What about Germany as a nuclear power?”
Hacke goes on to use very martial language, declaring at the end of the article: “we must not content ourselves with high-handed criticism of Trump; instead, we must arm ourselves militarily, against all sides and by any means necessary.” And of course, Hacke gives the nationalist call with his push for militarism and nuclear weapons production, when he says:
“Finally, the ritualized idealization of European integration and the demonization of national interest has led the European Union into a dead end and deep crisis. Consequently, striking a balance between community interests and national considerations is long overdue, especially in Germany. In the face of new transatlantic uncertainties and potential confrontations, national defense based on an independent nuclear deterrence capacity must be given priority.”
Although Japan is currently ranked the seventh most powerful military in the world, with it being the third largest economy in the world, it has the potential to become much higher in the list of the most powerful militaries. In 1982, the CIA’s Foreign Broadcast Information Service produced a document entitled Japan Report, in which it presented the transcript of a panel discussion between leading Japanese officials on whether or not Japan must increase its military capacity, independently of the United States, since it could not rely on the Americans in case of a war. In one part of the 1982 document, Masatsugu Ishibashi, the secretary general of the leftist Socialist party, said:
“The question has been raised as to whether the United States is certain to come to the rescue in the event Japan is attacked and invaded. I have no confidence at all on this point. I cannot entertain such easy-going expectations that the United States will hurry to Japan’s aid if it expects its own homeland to be devastated.”
Ishibashi goes on to say that if Japan did not honor its pacifist constitution, specifically Article 9 of the constitution (which prohibits any active role in war), then Japan, having the third largest Gross National Product (GNP) in the world, would become the third largest military on earth:
“If there were no Peace Constitution and if we did not have the power to insist that Article 9 be obeyed, Japan’s military strength would not be limited to seventh (some say eighth) place in the world. Since the GNP is third highest in the world, it can be said that the military power would be certain to be comparable, i.e., third largest in the world.”
Ishibashi further on in his presentation says: “preparations are being made to alter the constitution, if possible, to officially recognize the right to collective defense.” This was said in 1982, and now in the second decade of the 21st century, this sentiment is stemming right from the top. Shinzo Abe and his government very seriously worked on amending Article 9 of the Japanese constitution.
Goro Takeda, a Japanese general who was in the panel, expressed a desire for Japan to be militarily independent, when he said: “it is the will of the people to defend Japan by themselves. Since those we are going to fight are our enemy, there is no one else except the Japanese, in actuality, to stand in the way of the invaders.” Takeda was talking about a war against the Soviet Union. While both Takeda and Ishibashi agreed that peace should be pursued, their words reflected an itching for military independence. The reality remains that talks of military independence has been in Japan for decades, and in the present zeitgeist of militarism and nationalism, this desire is getting closer to fruition.
The days of Japan being known strictly as a pacifist nation are beginning to wane. Shinzo Abe’s government reinterpreted the constitution to allow for “collective self defense,” which is just an elusive and incremental way to bring Japan closer and closer to the warpath, its militarism of olden days.
The former defense minister of Japan, Shigeru Ishiba, said in September of 2017 that Japan should pursue producing nuclear weapons, stating: “Is it really right for us to say that we will seek the protection of US nuclear weapons but we don’t want them inside our country?” Ishiba questioned whether or not the US would really come to the defense of Japan in the event of a war between Japan and North Korea. “It’s important to know when the United States would ‘open’ the nuclear umbrella for us,” Ishiba said. “If Japan, the only country to have suffered a nuclear attack, possessed nuclear weapons, it would send a message that it’s fine for anyone in the world to have them”.
In 2019, the Joint Force Quarterly, a military newspaper that is published by the National Defense University, a national security university funded by the Department of Defense, released an article pushing the United States government to give Japan American nukes. In the article, entitled: Twenty-first Century Nuclear Deterrence, it reads,
“Furthermore, the United States should strongly consider a potentially controversial new concept involving custodial sharing of nonstrategic nuclear capabilities during times of crisis with select Asia-Pacific partners, specifically Japan and the Republic of Korea.”
This goes in line with what Trump said during his campaign:
“Unfortunately, we have a nuclear world now… Would I rather have North Korea have [nuclear weapons] with Japan sitting there having them also? You may very well be better off if that’s the case. … If they’re attacked… we have to come totally to their defense. And that is a — that’s a real problem.”
The paper published by the Joint Force Quarterly actually states that Japan wants to go nuclear because it does not trust that the US would be reliable in case of a war, and then goes on to quote Henry Kissinger that nuclear weapons must inundate Asia:
In response to North Korean missile testing, Japan and South Korea reportedly considered “the nuclear option, driven by worry that the United States might hesitate to defend the countries if doing so might provoke a missile launched from the North at Los Angeles or Washington.” Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger echoed this sentiment of potential proliferation: “If they continue to have nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons must spread in the rest of Asia.”
Amidst a surge for nuclear power in Japan and Germany — and given the fact that these two countries are becoming more militarily independent — it would not be surprising if they one day were to become nuclear powers.