The Atomic Rose

What's in a name?

Foreign Policy in an article titled "An Intercontinental Ballistic Missile by any Other Name" says that "since 2011, there has been growing evidence that Russia is violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which bans missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers."  Fortunately Obama is on the job.

To its credit, the Obama administration has apparently raised these issues privately with the Russians for some time -- but to no avail. ...

But Russia's new nuclear weapons do pose a political problem. Moscow's ability to threaten capitals throughout NATO represents a challenge to the cohesion of the alliance. Although Western Europe has never been invulnerable to Russian nuclear forces, the elimination of the SS-20 dramatically reduced the threat to Western Europe. Russia's new missiles put that threat back into place, exacerbating a fundamental uncertainty about the alliance: Is Germany willing to risk Berlin for Riga? Is the Netherlands willing to risk Amsterdam for Tallinn?...

So what should Washington do now?...

As a first step, it's time to make Moscow's cheating a public matter. ...

That should change. State should make very clear what it is the Russians have done, how Washington views that compliance, and whatever excuses the Russians are offering for their sorry behavior.

But may be the phrase 'cheating' would be a bad choice. That would be like calling the European observers now held prisoner by militias in Eastern Ukraine 'hostages', which would exacerbate tensions. What's in a name?

NBC News reports on something called a Japanese nuclear 'Bomb in a Basement'. Of course it's not really a bomb. As Robert Windrem writes, "technical ability doesn’t equate to a bomb". But it's close.

Experts suggest getting from raw plutonium to a nuclear weapon could take as little as six months after the political decision to go forward. A senior U.S. official familiar with Japanese nuclear strategy said the six-month figure for a country with Japan’s advanced nuclear engineering infrastructure was not out of the ballpark, and no expert gave an estimate of more than two years.

Japan now has 9 tons of plutonium stockpiled at several locations in Japan and another 35 tons stored in France and the U.K. The material is enough to create 5,000 nuclear bombs. The country also has 1.2 tons of enriched uranium.

Moreover Japan's building a new plant that will make plutonium on a far larger scale. Another NBC News story says.

Rokkasho, Japan — With its turquoise-striped walls and massive steel cooling towers, the new industrial complex rising from bluffs above the Pacific Ocean looks like it might produce consumer electronics.

But in reality the plant 700 kilometers north of Tokyo is one of the world’s newest, largest and most controversial production facilities for a nuclear explosive material. The factory’s private owners said three months ago that after several decades of construction, it will be ready to open in October, as part of a government-supported effort to create special fuel for the country’s future nuclear power plants. ...

When the plant is operating at full capacity, it’s supposed to produce 8 metric tons of plutonium annually. That’s enough to make an estimated 2,600 nuclear weapons, each with the explosive force of 20,000 tons of TNT.

That's a lot of potential firepower and naturally the Chinese are suspicious.

Steve Fetter, formerly the Obama White House’s assistant director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, thinks China's concerns are not purely political.

"I've had private discussions with China in which they ask, 'Why does Japan have all this plutonium that they have no possible use for?' I say they made have made a mistake and are left with a huge stockpile," said Fetter, now a professor at the University of Maryland. "But if you were distrustful, then you see it through a different lens."

So to allay these baseless fears the Obama administration is persuading Japan to turn it over to the US. "Pressure has been growing on Japan to dump some of the trappings of its deterrent regardless. The U.S. wants Japan to return 331 kilos of weapons grade plutonium – enough for between 40 and 50 weapons – that it supplied during the Cold War. Japan and the U.S. are expected to sign a deal for the return at a nuclear security summit next week in the Netherlands."

The US is also working on getting South Korea to turn over any nuclear material to Washington. "There are fears that if Japan opens the Rakkosho plant, it will encourage South Korea to go the same route as its neighbor. The U.S. and South Korea have been negotiating a new civilian nuclear cooperation pact. The South wants to reprocess plutonium, but the U.S. is resisting providing cooperation or U.S. nuclear materials."

Which only proves the sagacity of Washington. Having one nuclear armed country on the Korean peninsula is bad enough. Two would be disastrous. Anyway as NBC News points out that "Japan signed the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which bans it from developing nuclear weapons, more than 40 years ago."  And Russia signed an arms control treaty with the US.  So despite the so-called ICBM in development there's nothing to worry about.

Recently some concern was raised about the fact that the administration never defined the term "al-Qaeda" before declaring victory over it.  But rest assured those arms control and nuclear nonproliferation treaties are very carefully worded. Only the best attorneys were employed drafting them. It's wonderful to live in a world run by lawyers, who by mastering the word, master reality; and financiers, who by printing paper, create money. What's in a name?

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet;

So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,

Retain that dear perfection which he owe

Without that title.

Names are everything to the Obama administration. How sad it is that Russia, Japan and South Korea show so little faith in parsed words on paper or in words spoken from the teleprompter. It's almost as if in their doubt they're putting their stock in actual things and leaving the palaver to Obama.

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