Date of Graduation

Summer 2016


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

Andrei Shoumikhin


Japan may be about to cross the threshold of a slow march toward nuclearization. This thesis will highlight signals that Japan not only has the means to develop nuclear weapons but maybe approaching a culmination point where Japan will cross the nuclear threshold. This thesis relies on a range of open-source documents and previously classified documents of the United States and Japan in order to reveal some of these subtle indications. Japan relies on four main factors to maintain its non–nuclear status: its alliance with the United States, nuclear deterrence underwritten by the United States, regional stability, and the nuclear non–proliferation regime. As all of these factors are in a state of flux, Japan has felt the need to remilitarize and reduce its dependency on the United States. Japan and the United States' national security interests are diverging: the United States is focused on retrenchment and remains trapped in Middle Eastern disputes. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States' nuclear enterprise has deteriorated. Moreover, the United States has made critical choices that further raise concerns over the credibility of the United States as a nuclear guarantor. All the while, Japan has faced an increasingly unstable region: North Korea, China, and Russia all pose threats to Japan's national security. These threats provide additional incentives for Japan to remilitarize and reinterpret Article 9 of its Constitution. These four factors are also incentivizing Japan to reconsider its latent nuclear weapons capabilities. If present geo-political conditions do not change, Japan's non-proliferation stance will culminate and Japan will develop an indigenous nuclear weapons program.


Japan, Japanese constitution, Northeast Asia, mutual security, non-proliferation

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


© Michael LaDon Cribb, Jr.

Open Access