News

    Japanese Companies Linked to Illegal Exports of Goods Used to Make Nuclear Weapons

    An investigation in Japan is revealing more details about domestic manufacturers that exported equipment that can be used to make nuclear weapons. There is evidence that Japanese technology has aided nuclear programs in Libya, Iran and North Korea.

    Manufacturers and trading companies in Japan have long been reported to be participants in the international black market in nuclear technology.

    The latest case, involving precision machinery maker Mitutoyo and a Iranian trading company in Tokyo, Seian, alleges that sensitive goods have been exported from Japan for two decades.

    Mitutoyo makes sophisticated measurement tools essential for enriching uranium, which can be used for nuclear bombs. The International Atomic Energy Agency found one of its machines in a Libyan nuclear facility nearly three years ago.

    Japanese news media say Mitutoyo's equipment was shipped through an international ring run by Pakistan's top nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, via such countries as China, Germany, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.

    Defense analysts and Japanese government sources say that Japanese companies also have exported equipment for nuclear programs in North Korea, Iran and Libya.

    Among the few willing to speak publicly about these illegal exports is retired Ground Self Defense Force Lieutenant General Naruhiko Ueda. He is now senior executive director of the Japan Defense Research Council.

    While most Japanese oppose nuclear weapons, because the country was hit by two atomic bombs in World War II, Ueda says many either look the other way or are ignorant about exports of equipment needed to make nuclear weapons.

    "Sometimes the company leader comes not from the science area," he said. "They cannot understand this is bad. So, in that case, these parts will be used [to make] the nuclear weapon in North Korea, like that."

    Although there is opposition to nuclear weapons, Japan has a large nuclear power industry. Many of its high-technology companies produce the equipment needed in the industry.

    Police have arrested five Mitutoyo employees, including the company president, on suspicion of violating foreign trade control laws.

    But analysts say the arrests are unlikely to end these lucrative exports because the penalties are weak.

    A Tokyo trading company last week was fined less than $9,000 for illegally exporting a freeze dryer to North Korea. Authorities say it could be used to make nuclear or biological weapons.

    General Ueda calls the light penalties an outrage.

    "To export some parts in Japan, not so severe, very light. They (the violators) come back again soon. This is a very bad national crime," he said.

    Ueda and other analysts say the Mitutoyo case could shame Japanese lawmakers into stiffening penalties, so that convicted company officials go to prison. So far, however, there has been no sign of legislative action to stem the illegal trade.


    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora