Nuclear Armed Japan–Again! SS-18s Deter China!

Japan's Nuclear Deterrent

Japan's Nuclear Deterrent-the SS-18 ICBM Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Nuclear Armed Japan–It Wasn’t, Isn’t, Doesn’t, Right?

A nuclear armed Japan is a fundamentally alien concept to most. After all, it was the Japanese who intimately experienced the only nuclear strikes on their cities (Hiroshima, Nagasaki) in all of recorded history–if you read only the standard nuclear weapon accounts! Those with broader reading and viewing tastes, though, will be aware the Japanese had not one, but two nuclear weapon programs during World War II. The Imperial Japanese Army’s nuclear weapon effort was inadvertently bombed out of existence when Kyoto was hit, but the Imperial Japanese Navy apparently managed a Trinity style (but using uranium) nuclear detonation off Hungnam, Korea (now North Korea) three days after Nagasaki was bombed. This shocking new nuclear history was revealed in Farrell’s groundbreaking Reich of the Black Sun and in one or more History Channel/Military History channel documentaries. Farrell argues that it served both the U.S. and Japan well to put forth what he called the “Legend” regarding the nuclear weapon story. The U.S. kept its new national sense of self as the first nuclear power, while Japan could be the aggrieved victim of two horrific nuclear attacks. It has long been felt that Japan had everything needed and on standby to build nuclear weapons, but she apparently not only has them, but has had them operational since circa 1990. They came from Russia! Ironically, they were the unintended consequence of  START (STrategic Arms Reduction Talks), the result of the U.S. effort to curtail the terrifying heavy ICBM called the SS-18 SATAN.

Nuclear Japan–When Fiction Follows Reality

Although a profoundly antinuclear Japan armed with ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) of such size, nuclear firepower and accuracy sounds positively oxymoronic, it is still true. The Chinese, whom the Japanese greatly fear, have long known this Japanese nuclear deterrent force exists, and it’s fairly common knowledge in U.S. military and intelligence circles. Japan’s ICBM force, amounting to a dozen or so missiles, is deployed around the iconic Fujiyama, most likely on the reverse slope away from China, to complicate nuclear strikes by missiles confined to ballistic trajectories. What’s particularly interesting is that bestselling techno-thriller writer Tom Clancy posited something very much like this is his 1994 Jack Ryan novel Debt of Honor. The timeline is certainly intriguing, for excellent sources say the missiles were somehow covertly shipped from Russia in 1988 or 1989, years before the novel. Therefore, it seems reasonable to posit that someone in Mr. Clancy’s broad circle of military and intelligence people may’ve said something about this at some point, and that it got folded into the novel as a major “what if?” theme. Of course, this is speculation based on logic!

Japan’s Nuclear Deterrent–The Unknowns

While it’s clear the Japanese have and have had a nuclear deterrent in place for ~22 years, certain nuclear specifics are still lacking. Were the missiles supplied complete, nuclear warheads and all? This seems doubtful given the Russian mania over nuclear weapon security. Were the missiles supplied, lacking only the nuclear warheads, for which plans or even kits were provided? This seems more likely. Finally, which specific version of the SS-18 was it? Logic would suggest the high accuracy SS-18 Mod 5 (see SS-18 link), carrying 10 nuclear warheads with nuclear yields assessed as 550-750 kilotons (Russian statement) or 750 kilotons-1-megaton (U.S. assessment). Why? This is the version the U.S. feared most and was a known target for force reduction! Delivery accuracy is high enough to hold hardened nuclear targets (deep nuclear command bunkers, nuclear missiles in silos) at risk. What’s certain is the Japanese didn’t build the missiles themselves, for there simply wasn’t enough time.



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