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Will the U.S. Go to Nuclear War Over Kobe or Pusan?
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Should Japan and South Korea be permitted to develop nuclear weapons? That was the very good question posed last week by candidate Donald Trump.

Washington’s elite and neocon war party threw up their hands in horror at Trump’s heretical question. The media, heavily influenced by neocons who hate Trump’s call for even-handed US policy in the Mideast, scorned his nuclear proposal or simply ignored it.

Too bad that Trump’s proposal was drowned in a sea of media noise. His idea has merit. This writer, long specialized in North Asian security affairs, has been advocating for a decade that Japan and South Korea develop their own nuclear weapons and anti-missile systems.

Two of Asia’s most important powers cannot afford to remain strategically naked, vulnerable and totally reliant on US strategic protection. Would the US risk a nuclear war, even a limited one, to protect Pusan, South Korea or Kobe, Japan?

Trump framed this question in dollars, as befits a businessman. Why should the US pay to defend these two wealthy nations? The answer: because Japan and South Korea are the keystone of America’s Asian imperium. They offer highly important military bases and key strategic geography that allows the US to politically, militarily and economically dominate North Asia. Expenses therefrom are costs of empire.

Trade plays an even bigger role in the American imperium than military power. By giving Japanese and South Korean industries access in the 1950’s to the vast US market, Washington made them economic as well as military dependents. Today, China is half way into the same imperial trade system.

Now, the rapid development of nuclear armed medium and long-range missiles in China and North Korea – both bitter historic enemies of Japan – is forcing Tokyo and Seoul to confront this vital issue.

Last week, numerous intelligence sources affirmed that North Korea had indeed miniaturized a nuclear warhead that could be carried a top one of its improved Rodong intermediate, 2,000km -range missiles. This would allow North Korea to hit targets all over South Korea, most of Japan, Okinawa and perhaps the giant US base at Guam.

The North could also menace the far more important target, Japan. Even shorter range N. Korean missiles can hit Japan, which has only very limited anti-missile defense. Israel, by comparison, has a far more capable multi-level anti-missile system. In spite of much talk about new strategic defenses, Japan is almost naked unto its enemies.

If North Korea attacked Japan, the US would be compelled to enter the fray. It’s also a poorly kept secret that the US would likely use tactical nuclear weapons to blunt a North Korean invasion of South Korea- just what General Douglas MacArthur urged half a century ago during the Korean War. A war between China and Japan over the contested South China Sea could erupt anytime


In short, Japan, South Korea or both could drag the US into a nuclear confrontation with North Korea or China that it wished to avoid. Because these nations lack any strategic retaliatory weapons to face down their enemies, they would either have to surrender to blackmail from North Korea and China or beg the US to join the nuclear confrontation.

Both Seoul and Tokyo understand how vulnerable they are. In the mid-1970’s, South Korea’s tough leader, Park Cheung-hee, sought to develop nuclear weapons. The South Korean effort was stopped by intense US pressure and even threats.

Japan has covertly worked on nuclear weapons for decades. This writer even saw plans for a Japanese atomic weapon. Today, Japan’s high-tech industry is believed to be able to deploy a nuclear bomb within 90 days of a go decision. I also believe that Switzerland has a similar secret capability.

Ending the pretense of nuclear virginity would make North Asia safer. China and North Korea would be much less likely to threaten Japan and South Korea if these latter nations had nuclear retaliatory forces and anti-missile systems.

Anyway, why can’t these grown-up democracies in Japan and South Korea have nuclear weapons when Washington has secretly allowed India and Israel to build powerful nuclear arsenals?

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Japan, North Korea, Nuclear Weapons 
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  1. Clinton, Dubya and Obama are all liars, traitors and murderers. But its Trump who is vulgar. Trump is opposed to Empire because its bad for America. It costs too much and accomplishes too little. That’s good enough for me. Japan and Korea need nukes only because they are allied with (occupied by) Washington. They should just make a deal with China and never look back. China is ascendant and near. Washington is in steep decline and far away. It should be a no brainer.

  2. I was told by Department of Energy officials in the 1990s that Japan could develop an atomic weapon within 6 weeks of a political decision to go ahead. The Japanese have a great deal of experience working with plutonium from the breeder reactor program. The gas boost mechanism of a more sophisticated fission weapon might be more difficult without test data but a simple fission bomb isn’t that difficult in 2016 for a nation. I don’t know about South Korea, but I doubt that it would be too difficult.

    France and Great Britain both decided to develop their own nuclear weapons program since they were skeptical (quite reasonably) that the U.S. would risk a strategic exchange with the former USSR in their defense. It’s a tougher call for Japan and South Korea but exactly the same calculations apply vis-à-vis the threat posed by the PRC and North Korea.

    I wish the U.S. would extricate itself from regional conflicts of no strategic significance. The hegemony sought by U.S. elites does not benefit the American public.

  3. I truly hope that North Korea send a few missile to both Japan and the US, they are both scum-bag filthy neo-con imperialistic pigs, that this world DOES NOT NEED! The IMF would be advised to shut its fucking holes and close its fucking murderous doors too!

    • Replies: @Decius
  4. Singh says:

    Lol secretly allowed India? You mean Pakistan, India went through decades of sanctions to get to where it is.

    Meanwhile pak gets everything free, as Hindu India must be contained strategically.

    • Replies: @foo
  5. Decius says:
    @From Australia

    The internet sure brings out the best, doesn’t it?

  6. Realist says:

    “China and North Korea would be much less likely to threaten Japan and South Korea if these latter nations had nuclear retaliatory forces and anti-missile systems.”

    China is not a threat to anyone. With the possible exception of US hegemony.

    • Replies: @Diversity Heretic
  7. @Realist

    The U.S. ought simply to concede regional hegemony to China; China is not an expansionist power, aside from a possible invasion of Taiwan, which they consider part of China. Chinese invasions of Japan or Korea border of delusional. Great Britain conceded regional hegemony to the United States in the 19th Century and was much the better for it. But neocons lack the rational approach of 19th Century British diplomats and I think that there are fears that the dollar will lose its status as the world’s reserve currency.

    • Replies: @5371
    , @Realist
  8. Realist says:
    @Diversity Heretic

    I agree.

    “But neocons lack the rational approach of 19th Century British diplomats and I think that there are fears that the dollar will lose its status as the world’s reserve currency.”

    Neocons lack many things, but hubris is not one of them.

  9. anon • Disclaimer says:

    I don’t see why it would be such a bad thing if Japan and South Korea had nuclear weapons. China and North Korea already do. I would even say that Australia should also probably have them. The only loser is Washington may have less control over these countries. But WHY does the USA have to have an imperium in Asia? How does this help ordinary Americans? And are China and North Korea really such a threat? How could either state invade Japan? I would even say that if America left the whole area tensions might well be reduced.

  10. tsotha says:

    There are a lot of people (myself included) who believe the Japanese lack nuclear weapons only in the purely technical sense. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had some number of devices mostly complete sitting around in some underground bunker waiting for a change in policy. That policy change would probably be the smart thing to do from an international perspective, but there’s still a lot of resistance to nuclear weapons inside Japan. My suspicion is eventually the Norks will do something so outrageous public sentiment in Japan will shift in favor of nukes. When that happens it will kick off a regional nuclear arms race.

    The Chinese, of course, will be furious, but they have only themselves to blame. They’ve been using North Korea as a regional provocateur and have allowed the Koreans to slip the leash.

  11. foo says:

    Lol secretly allowed India? You mean Pakistan, India went through decades of sanctions to get to where it is.

    The author Margolis is a known anti-Aryan/Hindu zealot, who used to (if memory is correct), go into bizarre rants about the need for circumcising Hindus some years ago. Basically a clown, don’t take his words seriously.

  12. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I find mindset of the average Japanese person in regards to defense and foreign policy baffling.

    Most Japanese still support Article 9 (the “pacifist” clause in the constitution) and the law against possessing nuclear weapons. Yet at the same, the majority support the US-Japan “security treaty”.

    When I point out to them that having the most powerful military in the world hold an enormous network of bases on your land, which it reserves the right to use for whatever reason regardless of your own national interests, sort of ruins the point of being pacifist they just look at me like a deer in headlights.

    Japan thinks that just by calling their military a “self defense force” rather than an army, it magically makes it okay.

    What’s really hilarious is their nuclear policy. They renounced sovereignty of most of their maritime boundaries so that the US navy can patrol it with nuclear equipped ships without technically violating the no nukes rule. Honestly, this borders on infantile thinking.

    If you have to go through all these legal loopholes in your own system just so you can technically call yourself pacifist, it might be time to rethink things. The Japanese are smart people. I don’t get why they can be so stupid about these things.

    • Replies: @Almost Missouri
  13. Historian says:

    The South Korean nukes and the Japanese nukes would cancel each other out anyway.

    It’s like the dreadnought race before World War I. When Austria-Hungary and Italy were both building battleships, the British just ignored them because they figured that the two countries would be at each other’s throats as soon as a war broke out.

    The South Koreans hate the Japanese a lot more than they hate the North Koreans. Oh, they’ll say publicly that they need them to defend against Kim Jong-un, but they’ll point the missiles at Tokyo.

  14. @Anonymous

    In way, it is consoling that it is not just Americans and Europeans who can be so stupid about what is so obvious.

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