While there are currently no known plans in Japan to produce nuclear weapons, it has been argued Japan has the technology, raw materials, and the capital to produce nuclear weapons within one year if necessary, and some analysts consider it a de facto nuclear state
for this reason.
For this reason Japan is often said to be a "screwdriver's turn"
away from possessing nuclear weapons.
Significant amounts of reactor-grade plutonium
are created as a by-product of the nuclear energy industry, and Japan was reported in December 1995 to have 4.7 tons of plutonium, enough for around 700 nuclear warheads.
Japan also possesses an indigenous uranium enrichment
which could hypothetically be used to make highly enriched uranium suitable for weapon use. Japan has also developed the M-V
three-stage solid fuel rocket, similar in design to the U.S. LGM-118A Peacekeeper ICBM
, which could serve as a delivery vehicle, and has experience in re-entry vehicle technology (OREX
). Toshiyuki Shikata, a government adviser and former lieutenant general, indicated that part of the rationale for the fifth M-V Hayabusa
mission, from 2003 to 2010, was that the reentry and landing of its return capsule demonstrated "that Japan's ballistic missile capability is credible."
It has been pointed out that as long as Japan enjoys the benefits of a "nuclear-ready" status held through surrounding countries, it will see no reason to actually produce nuclear arms, since by remaining below the threshold, albeit with the capability to cross it at short notice, Japan can expect the support of the US while posing as an equal to China and Russia.