Japan WMD Stats


Japan's 1947 constitution, which renounces the right to use force or the threat of force as a means of settling international disputes, sets important limits on Japanese security policy. Japan does not have any weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, although it has the technical capability to produce basic nuclear weapons and missiles in a relatively short time. The Japanese government is highly active in the international nonproliferation and disarmament arena, and party to all relevant multilateral treaties and regimes. As the only country to have suffered a nuclear weapons attack, Japan has been especially active in the field of nuclear nonproliferation and arms control. Japan ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1976 and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1997. Before 1945, Japan developed and employed both chemical and biological weapons. Japan is now a state party to both the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC). Japan is also a member of the Australia Group, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), and the Zangger Committee. Japan has an active nuclear energy program, one of the world's leading chemical industries, a growing biotechnology sector, and an active commercial space program.


  • Biological: A description of the nation's situation with regards to the possession and manufacture of biological weapons of mass destruction
  • Chemical: A description of the nation's situation with regards to the possession and manufacture of chemical weapons of mass destruction
  • Missile: A description of the nation's situation with regards to the possession and manufacture of missile weapons of mass destruction
  • Nuclear: A description of the nation's situation with regards to the possession and manufacture of nuclear weapons
Biological Japan had an active biological weapons (BW) program prior to 1945. The focal point was the now infamous Unit 731 based at a laboratory complex in northeastern China during the Japanese occupation. Unit 731 experimented on Chinese civilians and Allied prisoners of war with various biological agents, including plague, cholera, and hemorrhagic fever. After World War II, the Japanese government abandoned its BW program. Japan signed the BWC in 1972 and ratified it in 1982. Japan has actively supported negotiation of a protocol to strengthen current BWC provisions. Since the 1995 Aum Shinrikyo's sarin attack and failed attempt to disperse anthrax, Japan has increased its focus on bio-terrorism defenses. Although Japan has a growing biotechnology industry, it is still small in comparison to its chemical industry. As a member of the Australia Group, Japan's biotech industry is subject to a comprehensive set of export controls. 1995
Chemical Japanese scientists began developing chemical weapons (CW) as early as 1917. The Japanese Army used CW after invading China in 1937, conducting an estimated 1,000 to 3,000 attacks. Japan reportedly produced five to seven million munitions containing agents such as phosgene, mustard, lewisite, hydrogen cyanide, and diphenyl cyanarsine. Although Japanese forces used many of these munitions between 1937 and 1945, a considerable amount was abandoned when Japanese forces retreated. After World War II, Japan pledged to not produce CW and participated in the negotiations for the CWC, which Japan signed in 1993 and ratified in 1995. Japan's CWC obligations include the responsibility for the disposal of abandoned CW (ACW) in China. The deadline for completion of the clean-up is 2007, but the scale of the program has led many to estimate that Japan will need an extension. Japan's chemical industry is the world's second largest, with about 16 percent of global chemical production. As a member of the Australia Group, Japan has developed comprehensive and well-enforced export controls on chemical weapons precursors and dual-use items. Since the 1995 Aum Shinrikyo sarin attack, Japanese spending on CW defense has increased. 2007
Missile Japan does not have a ballistic missile development program, but its space program includes a number of technologies that could potentially be adapted to long-range missiles. The solid-fueled M-5 rocket system, first launched in 1995, includes technologies that could be adapted to develop intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capabilities roughly similar to those of the U.S. MX Peacekeeper missile. Japan's two-stage H-2 rocket is capable of placing a two-ton payload into orbit, but the H-2 is not optimal for ballistic missile applications due to its reliance on cryogenic liquid hydrogen and oxygen fuel. Japan lacks sophisticated command and control systems, as well as some guidance and warhead technology that would be necessary to develop operational missiles. Japan has partnered with the United States to research ballistic missile defenses (BMD), but has yet to make a final decision on future development and deployment. Many in Japan argue that a missile defense system would compliment the U.S. nuclear deterrent and defend against possible belligerents such as North Korea. Others argue that the system's costs outweigh the benefits, especially since the system's effectiveness is unproven. Missile defense also raises potential legal issues regarding Japanese legislation barring the military use of space. Japan is an active member of the MTCR and was involved in drafting the International Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (ICOC). 1995
Nuclear Japan's "Atomic Energy Basic Law" allows only peaceful nuclear activities, and its "Three Non-Nuclear Principles" pledge that Japan will not possess, produce, or permit the introduction of nuclear weapons into the country. Despite Japan's long-standing stance against nuclear weapons, there was an internal debate in the early 1970s about whether Japan should sign the NPT, in part due to concerns about assuring access to nuclear technology to meet national energy needs, and the discriminatory nature of the treaty. Some conservatives were also concerned that closing off the nuclear option might negatively impact future national security needs. Japan has played an active role in nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, and has proposed a process for the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Japan ratified the CTBT in 1997 and has been a strong supporter of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). However, Japan's security relationship with the United States has tempered Tokyo's emphasis on disarmament. For example, Japan remains quiet about the possible presence of nuclear warheads on U.S. ships and military bases in Japan. Japan increasingly relies on nuclear power for its electricity needs, and has a highly developed civilian nuclear sector. Japan has a controversial program for recycling spent nuclear fuel that has produced large quantities of plutonium in the form of metal-oxide nuclear fuel. At the end of 2001, Japan had more than 30 metric tons of spent fuel stored at reprocessing plants in Britain and France, along with a domestic stockpile of 5 to 6 tons. These nuclear fuel stockpiles will ultimately return to Japan for use in domestic nuclear facilities. The original plan called for consumption of the stored fuel by 2010, but due to technical and safety issues, this timetable has been delayed and return of the stored fuel to Japan is proceeding slowly. Some argue this material could provide Japan with a latent nuclear weapons capability. In addition, the new facility under constructing in Rokkasho (Aomori Prefecture) will increase Japanese domestic reprocessing capacity and potentially produce an additional 5 tons of metal-oxide nuclear fuel per year. Although anti-nuclear sentiment among the Japanese public has far outweighed support for keeping a nuclear option open, several neighboring countries have expressed concerns about possible Japanese nuclear ambitions. Partly in response to these fears, the Japanese government completed an internal study in 1995 that reaffirmed previous conclusions that developing nuclear weapons would damage both Japan’s national security and regional security. However recent tension developing in the region, particularly in the Korean peninsula, has led to increased discussions in Japan about the once taboo subject of nuclear weapons development. Despite recent speculation that Japan may reconsider its nuclear options, the deep aversion to nuclear weapons among the Japanese public will likely make any move in this direction difficult. 2010


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