- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
The Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun has a long and at times contentious interview with Morris Jeppson, one of the two surviving members of the crew of the Enola Gay.
Jeppson isn’t a big fan of Barack Obama generally, particularly his views on nuclear disarmament. Interestingly, Jeppson, who was in charge of arming the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, seems to feel that the time has come for Japan to have nuclear weapons of its own:
So I’ve always endorsed Japan’s position of let’s not go for nuclear weapons. But I don’t believe that anymore. […]
The only thing that worked before now is deterrent. So if Obama gets us out of nuclear weapons, and Japan is sitting there with no nuclear weapons, Japan is at the mercy of North Korea and China, we are defenseless against North Korea and China and Iran. We already have a weapon and I trust they’ll keep them under control. But Japan is heavily into the nuclear power industry, more than the biggest nuclear power in the whole world. When you generate nuclear power, I’m kind of on the fringe of that. You manufacture plutonium — that’s the Nagasaki-type bomb. So that’s why North Korea wants it, Iran wants it, China has it, Pakistan has it. I think Japan with super technology could very, very quickly produce nuclear weapons and be prepared to use them if they had to.
Now that’s what I am going to ask you — that’s my point of view for where Japan should go. Now I need to ask you — how do you think Japan would be over the long range, of being a protectorate of nuclear weaponry? Would it not use it unless there is a good reason to use it? For me, I’d like to be reassured that Japan is a democracy and a world power and will protect what it has — nuclear power and nuclear weapons if it can get nuclear weapons. Getting nuclear weapons would hold off North Korea for sure — that would stop North Korea from ever using them — that would involve Japan. I think it might be a deterrent to hold back China.
The whole three-part interview is fascinating reading, particularly the interaction between Jeppson and the Japanese interviewer over whether Obama should offer an apology when he visits Hiroshima in November.