Japan considered developing nukes: Nakasone

Ex-prime minister's memoirs say 1970 study concluded nation could have the bomb within five years

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Japan conducted a secret study on the costs and time line for nuclear weapons development in 1970, former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone has revealed in memoirs to be published next week.

The study concluded that Japan was capable of developing nuclear weapons in five years at a cost of 200 billion yen at 1970 price levels, according to a draft copy of “Jisei-roku” (“Memoirs of Soul-Searching”).

But according to the study, it was impractical to develop such weapons because of the lack of nuclear test facilities.

The study was carried out under orders from Nakasone, then director general of the Defense Agency. The research team was headed by a grandson of Hirobumi Ito, Japan’s first prime minister in the Meiji Era.

The name of the grandson was not given in the book, which will be published by Shinchosha Co. on Friday.

Nakasone, 86, who was prime minister between 1982 and 1987, says in the book that he has always been opposed to Japan developing nuclear arms.

He says that if Japan goes nuclear, it would trigger a collapse of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and raise tensions throughout Asia.

“In reality, a national consensus on nuclear armament would not be formed under current circumstances,” Nakasone writes.

But Nakasone says that if the United States no longer extends its nuclear umbrella to protect Japan, Japan would “have to explore various possibilities, including that of nuclear armament.”

He also says that development of “small nuclear weapons is possible without testing, thanks to advancements in computer technology.”

Nakasone says he became interested in nuclear technology after seeing the mushroom cloud filling the sky over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, when he was in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture. Hiroshima is about 150 km west of Takamatsu.

“Since the experience of Hiroshima, nuclear power had been stuck in my mind,” he says.