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Japan could 'go nuclear' in months
Atimes | 1.13.03 | Marc Erikson

Posted on 01/13/2003 11:48:19 AM PST by Enemy Of The State

Japan could 'go nuclear' in months
By Marc Erikson

On January 3, Washington Post syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote, "We [the US] should go to the Chinese and tell them plainly that if they do not join us in squeezing North Korea ... we will endorse any Japanese attempt to create a nuclear deterrent of its own. Even better, we would sympathetically regard any request by Japan to acquire American nuclear missiles as an immediate and interim deterrent. If our nightmare is a nuclear North Korea, China's is a nuclear Japan. It's time to share the nightmares."

It's not clear how shared nightmares would make for a safer Northeast Asia. But there can be no doubt that if Japan saw fit to become a nuclear power, it could do so in less than a year's time - without American help and borrowed nukes and to China's certain chagrin.

There is also a fast-growing body of opinion in Japan saying that that's precisely what the country should do. Latest on that is a December "Nuclear Declaration for Japan" by influential Kyoto University international-relations Professor Terumasa Nakanishi (co-author with Fred Charles Ikle, undersecretary of defense for policy in the Ronald Reagan administration, of a widely noted Foreign Affairs article "Japan's grand strategy") and literary critic Kazuya Fukuda calling on the Japanese not to cave in to the North Korean nuclear threat: "The best way for Japan to avoid being the target of North Korean nuclear missiles is for the prime minister to declare without delay that Japan will arm itself with nuclear weapons." They also want Japan to get on with construction of a missile-defense system, post haste.

Recall, too, that in April last year Liberal Party president Ichiro Ozawa created a massive furor claiming (rightly, by the way) that Japan - to deter any China threat - could easily produce "thousands of nuclear warheads" from plutonium extracted from the spent fuel of its more than 50 commercial nuclear reactors. In late May, chief cabinet secretary Yasuo Fukuda followed suit and told a news conference (right again) that Japan's war-renouncing constitution does not prevent it from possessing nuclear weapons.

A few years back, such declarations by noted academics or statements by high-ranking politicians and government officials would have been unthinkable. Quite evidently, they no longer are.

Significant political hurdles remain. But those could come down in a hurry should North Korea in its present escalation mood launch another ballistic missile across Japan's bow as in August 1998. As for technical feasibility, Japan for two decades or more has had the scientific and technological capability and the tools and materials to make nuclear bombs in short order - and by now not just crude but highly sophisticated ones. Asked how long it would take, a Japanese defense official offered the - tongue-in-cheek? - detail of 183 days.

The North Korean nuclear (or other WMD)-tipped ballistic missiles to Japan is real enough. While it was the 1998 Taepodong 1 launch that alerted the Japanese public to the danger, North Korea at the time and now had about 100 Nodong 1 missiles deployed and ready whose range of about 1,200 kilometers (perhaps up to 1,500km) covers most of Japan. As real as this threat is Japan's ability of drawing even and then quickly ahead in any nuclear missile arms race. It has the missiles; it has the fissile materials.

According to figures published annually by the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, at the end of 2001 the country owned 38 tons of separated reactor-grade plutonium (RGPu) - about six tons stored in Japan, the remainder in reprocessing plants in France and the United Kingdom. The amount stored at home increased by 400 kilograms during the year from reprocessing at the Tokai facility of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Development Institute. This percentage increase will grow rapidly when a larger commercial-size reprocessing plant in Rokkasho comes on line in 2005. But who needs it? Six tons is enough for anywhere from 400-800 warheads.

There have been claims, including by Japanese officials anxious to deny any weapons-making purpose, that RGPu could not be used for weapons production. That's utter nonsense. According to the latest US Department of Energy guidance on the subject, "The degree to which the obstacles to the use of RGPu can be overcome depends on the sophistication of the state or group attempting to produce a nuclear weapon. At the lowest level of sophistication ... could build a weapon from RGPu that would give an assured, reliable yield of one or a few kilotons, and a probable yield much greater than that ... At the other end of the [sophistication] spectrum, [states], using modern designs, could produce weapons from RGPu ... comparable to weapons made from WGPu (weapons-grade plutonium)."

Japan decidedly is at or near the higher end of the sophistication spectrum. Moreover, it could easily upgrade RGPu to WGPu, produce weapons-grade uranium from low-enriched uranium (WGU) by laser separation, or just produce WGU in its commercial centrifuge plant. Beyond that, at its Osaka Laser Engineering Laboratory, Japan has one of the world's largest, most powerful lasers for use in inertial confinement (or laser) fusion experiments. Weapons testing could be done there as it is in a comparable facility to the United States' Lawrence Livermore lab. Indeed, not only could fission-weapons designs be tested on a small scale, the same goes for much more sophisticated and high-yield hydrogen (thermonuclear fusion) weapons.

Technically, Japan is ready. Politically, North Korea may push it over the brink.


TOPICS: Activism/Chapters; Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; Government; Japan; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
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1 posted on 01/13/2003 11:48:19 AM PST by Enemy Of The State
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To: Enemy Of The State
Betcha that will make them have a bad case of deja vu.
2 posted on 01/13/2003 11:51:50 AM PST by sheik yerbouty
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To: maui_hawaii; AmericanInTokyo
Ping!
3 posted on 01/13/2003 11:51:54 AM PST by Enemy Of The State
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To: sheik yerbouty
Im all for Arming Japan. I think its a great idea as it will certainly help to maintain the balance of power with Chinas growing thirst to become a regional superpower. As the man said, if Japans biggest fear is a nuclear armed N.Korea, Chinas worst nightmare is a nuclear armed Japan.

Just what the doctor ordered if you ask me!
4 posted on 01/13/2003 11:53:51 AM PST by Enemy Of The State
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To: Enemy Of The State
There already are nuclear weapons in Japan
5 posted on 01/13/2003 11:54:13 AM PST by AmericanInTokyo (We're liable to get a reputation as a country willing to fight considerably weaker nations, only....)
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To: Enemy Of The State
Tom Clancy proves his prescience once again.

('Debt of Honor' describes a Japan gone nuclear...a great read, as are all of Clancy's offerings.)
6 posted on 01/13/2003 11:56:15 AM PST by EternalVigilance
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To: Enemy Of The State
The best option is that in all of Northeast Asia, (including China) the whole damn entire lot of them DO NOT possess nuclear weapons.

The enemy of our enemy may be our friend, alright, but you do not want nuclear weapons in the hands of Japan which is like putting a pistol in a kid's lunchbox. With their insularity, and strong penchant for domination of people other than the chosen race, it would eventually be a formula for disaster. Problem is, it would be no better or worse than nukes for Kim Jong il.

Gotta find a way to de-nuclearize ALL of Northeast Asia, starting with the DPRK, IMHO.

7 posted on 01/13/2003 11:57:40 AM PST by AmericanInTokyo (We're liable to get a reputation as a country willing to fight considerably weaker nations, only....)
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To: AmericanInTokyo
Landbased or in a harbor?
8 posted on 01/13/2003 11:58:16 AM PST by Rebelbase
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To: AmericanInTokyo
Please elaborate. Do you mean US warheads or has Japan secretly developed warheads from their neclear power plants?
9 posted on 01/13/2003 11:58:31 AM PST by caa26
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To: AmericanInTokyo
Why don't we just offer the same reactor to Taiwan that we gave to North Korea to stop them from making nuclear weapons. It worked so well before.
10 posted on 01/13/2003 11:59:01 AM PST by Ingtar
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To: EternalVigilance
"'Debt of Honor' describes a Japan gone nuclear...a great read, as are all of Clancy's offerings"

Not to mention a funny way to use a 747.
11 posted on 01/13/2003 11:59:24 AM PST by Rebelbase
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To: Enemy Of The State
The Japanese don't want to touch nukes !

Everyone here says let them make nukes but they don't want to !

12 posted on 01/13/2003 12:00:05 PM PST by america-rules
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To: Enemy Of The State
183 days

The decimal point didn't print on my screen. It is 18.3 days, isn't it?

13 posted on 01/13/2003 12:00:26 PM PST by RightWhale
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To: america-rules
You havent talked to Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro recently, now have you?
14 posted on 01/13/2003 12:01:05 PM PST by AmericanInTokyo (We're liable to get a reputation as a country willing to fight considerably weaker nations, only....)
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To: AmericanInTokyo
"There already are nuclear weapons in Japan "

Would you be referring to those weapons which are on US naval warships?

15 posted on 01/13/2003 12:01:10 PM PST by Enemy Of The State
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To: Rebelbase
Landbased and harbour.
16 posted on 01/13/2003 12:01:56 PM PST by AmericanInTokyo (We're liable to get a reputation as a country willing to fight considerably weaker nations, only....)
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To: Rebelbase
Title of another thread today "India Acquiring Guided Missile Sub -- sister ship to 'Kursk'"

Was'nt Indian naval aggression a sub-plot in Debt of Honor also?

17 posted on 01/13/2003 12:04:35 PM PST by Rebelbase
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To: EternalVigilance
#17 is for you.
18 posted on 01/13/2003 12:06:12 PM PST by Rebelbase
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To: Enemy Of The State
I thought I read several years ago that the Japanese were well equipped to produce nuclear weapons as soon as they had the will to assemble them, off of their parts shelf, so to speak. I have no doubt they have both the knowhow and the wherewithal to produce the fuel and technology.
19 posted on 01/13/2003 12:06:37 PM PST by Petronski (I'm not always cranky.)
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To: Enemy Of The State; AmericanInTokyo
GHWB removed tactical nukes (to much gladness and rejoicing from battlegroup commanders and weapons officers) from USN ships in 1991.
20 posted on 01/13/2003 12:08:26 PM PST by Poohbah (When you're not looking, this tag line says something else.)
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To: Rebelbase
Wasn't Indian naval aggression a sub-plot in Debt of Honor also?

Indeed it was...in cahoots with a very vicious but subtle China.

21 posted on 01/13/2003 12:08:26 PM PST by EternalVigilance
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To: AmericanInTokyo
There already are nuclear weapons in Japan

I presume you mean Japanese-owned and developed nukes. I agree. If nothing else, NK's Taepo Dong launch across Japan a few years back would have settled the issue. (I think it's far more likely, though, that they started their program back during the Cold War.)

22 posted on 01/13/2003 12:08:44 PM PST by r9etb
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To: r9etb
PM Eisaku Sato bluffed Kennedy back in the 1960s that they could 'go their own route'. Of course, one Taepodong mulistager across the bow of Japan in summer of 1999 was enough to scare the Japanese to move in that direction, even though the surface 'tatemae' and all the constitutional provisions would deny or prevent it.

They would, if I am not mistaken, be getting their weaponized plutonium from the Monju reactor. They already have tested for the 'weaponability' for their reprocessed plutonium. For all intents and purposes, the H-2 rocket is their intercontintal ballistic missile. It might be said that it is not such much GWB's 'Axis of Evil' or 'I Loathe Kim Jong il' comments that provoke(d) the North Koreans, as it is their understanding of what neighbor Japan is developing and can develop (literally overnight), with not so much as an inkling of general public debate.

23 posted on 01/13/2003 12:15:47 PM PST by AmericanInTokyo (We're liable to get a reputation as a country willing to fight considerably weaker nations, only....)
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To: Enemy Of The State
Nukes for Japan not an issue. Aircraft carriers and subs ? America might have a REAL issue with that.
24 posted on 01/13/2003 12:16:28 PM PST by Centurion2000 (Darth Crackerhead)
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To: AmericanInTokyo
One of the things that worries me about Japan in that respect is how the culture is both consensus-driven AND deferential to hierarchical authority. The bigshots form a consensus--and aside from nutball groups like the Chukaku-Ha, there's almost zero public dissent.
25 posted on 01/13/2003 12:19:58 PM PST by Poohbah (When you're not looking, this tag line says something else.)
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To: Petronski
Lets look at the big picture. North Korea isn't doing anything unless the Chinese have a major say so in the matter. This entire situation was created with China standing in the background...watching and laughing...figuring that the US would have to backtrack on Iraq and degrade its situation. The Chinese have no fear of North Korea because they basically own them.

I would say its time to play the Chinese game. Let a 3rd level player in the state department quietly go into Beijing and hint that we will hand all required knowledge over to Japan by the end of Feb if this episode is not quickly resolved. The Chinese will think that the US would never let a 3rd level state department dimwit announce such a move. When March rolls around, offer any bit of nuke knowledge that the Japanese desire...on national TV. My guess is that the Japanese military will readily accept the idea and move forward.

China sees itself as 'the' player in Asian politics. Its time to let Japan announce itself as the 'the' player and retake what the power it once had. Given a choice...Japan is a better friend of America than China.
26 posted on 01/13/2003 12:32:40 PM PST by pepsionice
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To: Enemy Of The State
What we need is a rent-a-nuke program. Make some devices that are tamper resistant that cannot be opened up so they can be reengineered. Put a timer in it with a failsafe code that expires, along with an override code which the US retains.

Arm both Japan, Taiwan (Hey there's a wrinkle for the chinese) and South Korea with these rent-a-nukes. No need for these countries to start their own program. Cheap proliferation to friendly countries courtesy of the US.


27 posted on 01/13/2003 12:43:51 PM PST by DannyTN
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To: Enemy Of The State
Twenty years from now, we may be very happy to have a nuclear-armed Japan.

Armed to the d*mned teeth, we'll hope.
28 posted on 01/13/2003 12:47:24 PM PST by headsonpikes
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To: Ronin
Nihon no nuke bump.
29 posted on 01/13/2003 12:52:01 PM PST by Question_Assumptions
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To: Enemy Of The State
I've read material ( quite a while ago ) suggesting Japan has been a covert nuclear power for about a decade : something it will conceal until there is no option.
30 posted on 01/13/2003 12:54:44 PM PST by genefromjersey
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To: AmericanInTokyo
I read a suggestion a few years ago that Japan's approach would be to not to actually commit a violation of the NPT but stand at a situation of being "a screw turn away." This would give them the cover of not actually being in violation but still leave them able to very quickly respond to any grave threat posed by NK, China or at the time, the Soviets. Many Japanese start to vibrate at the mere mention of nukes, understandably so. That being said, while Japan is quite sensitive about the topic they are far from suicidical; anyone who doubts they would act first and foremost in their own best interest isn't being realistic.

Prudent policy given the neighborhood, if you ask me.

31 posted on 01/13/2003 12:56:02 PM PST by mitchbert (Facts are stubborn things)
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To: AmericanInTokyo
The best option is that in all of Northeast Asia, (including China) the whole damn entire lot of them DO NOT possess nuclear weapons.

Bump!

32 posted on 01/13/2003 1:16:04 PM PST by aught-6
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To: Poohbah
Aum Shrinriko
33 posted on 01/13/2003 3:01:03 PM PST by patton (Let A=B, and B=1. Then AB=AA, AB=A(^2), AB-B(^2)=A(^2)-B(^2), B(A-B)=(A+B)(A-B), B=A+B, A=0.So 1=0.)
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To: pepsionice
Better yet, let Japan be the boss over ROK.
34 posted on 01/13/2003 3:04:32 PM PST by johnb838 (deconstruct the left)
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To: patton
Them, too.
35 posted on 01/13/2003 3:05:17 PM PST by Poohbah (When you're not looking, this tag line says something else.)
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To: Poohbah
Why were commanders glad to be nuke free?
36 posted on 01/13/2003 3:27:02 PM PST by NativeNewYorker
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To: DannyTN
27 - Thinking outside the box. Great idea!
37 posted on 01/13/2003 3:28:10 PM PST by NeonKnight
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To: NativeNewYorker
Why were commanders glad to be nuke free?

Two big reasons. One, the nukes took up valuable magazine space (more so than conventional ordnance of the same volume, due to concerns about increased neutron flux if you packed the warheads too closely together). Since it was unlikely in the extreme that they would ever be used, the weapons just wasted space that they wanted for stuff that they actually WOULD use in a shooting war.

Second, with nuclear weapons comes nuclear weapons surety requirements. These include personnel administration (the justly infamous Personnel Reliability Program), magazine security requirements, weapons maintenance requirements, and training drills (BROKEN ARROW, DULL SWORD, and BENT SPEAR drills are very time-consuming, but MUST be done if you're packing nukes, because a ship is basically some sort of operational mishap waiting to happen).

38 posted on 01/13/2003 3:34:33 PM PST by Poohbah (When you're not looking, this tag line says something else.)
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To: AmericanInTokyo
the H-2 rocket is their intercontintal ballistic missile.

Way too big, and liquid fueled, too: slow reaction. Something compact, and solid-fueled, and tucked into silos is the way to go. Mobile-basing is possible, but Japan has limited land area to truck these around, same problem Israel would have. Submarine-basing would be a good trade-off and would match China's sub-based ICBM fleet.

39 posted on 01/13/2003 3:35:21 PM PST by RightWhale
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To: Poohbah
A waste of space and time, to be blunt.

Thanks for the info. Most of what I know about things military, I learn here. :)

40 posted on 01/13/2003 3:41:05 PM PST by NativeNewYorker
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To: RightWhale
Way too big

When the Japs go nuclear, the warheads will be the size of pinheads, and the missiles will be the size of the stylus in your PalmPilot.

/gallows humor

41 posted on 01/13/2003 3:42:37 PM PST by NativeNewYorker
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To: Centurion2000
Aircraft carriers and subs ? America might have a REAL issue with that.

Japan already has a force of 18 quality diesel submarines (not nuclear-powered, though) and have 6 more under construction or planned.

They a 15,000 ton LST that can carry quite a few helos if they wish. I'm sure they could build full-deck aircraft carriers if they felt like it.

They also have Aegis Destroyers.

42 posted on 01/13/2003 3:47:19 PM PST by John H K
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To: RightWhale
Submarine-basing would be a good trade-off and would match China's sub-based ICBM fleet.

The Chinese have ONE ICBM sub, and it's a piece of crap...I wouldn't call that a fleet.

They're building four, but apparently they won't enter service till the end of the decade.

43 posted on 01/13/2003 3:51:44 PM PST by John H K
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To: John H K
The Chinese have ONE ICBM sub, and it's a piece of crap...I wouldn't call that a fleet.

It hasn't put to sea in at least seven years.

They're building four, but apparently they won't enter service till the end of the decade.

Given the problems of their homebrew diesel boats (the Song class, which has been cancelled in favor of importing more Kilo/Varshankya boats from Russia), don't bet the mortgage money on these beasties actually being worth a damn.

44 posted on 01/13/2003 3:56:26 PM PST by Poohbah (When you're not looking, this tag line says something else.)
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To: Enemy Of The State
How do you (Japan) know if the next missile coming your way has a nuclear tip on it or not?
45 posted on 01/13/2003 3:57:15 PM PST by ApesForEvolution ((communism is a rash that needs to be scraped off of the planet))
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To: DannyTN
What we need is a rent-a-nuke program

You haven't read The Stone Canal by Ken Macleod, by any chance?

46 posted on 01/13/2003 4:03:38 PM PST by adx (Will produce tag lines for beer)
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To: AmericanInTokyo
But we'll at least get some great new Japanese sci-fi movies.....I mean, nukes gave us Rodin, Mothra, and Godzilla......
47 posted on 01/13/2003 4:06:09 PM PST by ken5050
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To: NativeNewYorker
warheads will be the size of pinheads, and the missiles will be the size of the stylus in your PalmPilot.

And the explosion would be so loud it could be heard in the next room.

48 posted on 01/13/2003 4:11:06 PM PST by RightWhale
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To: adx
No I haven't. Why?

I'm not even sure that's a good idea. I just kind of threw it out there. But if it kept countries from developing nuclear technology and allowed countries to arm themselves without depending on us, it might have some real merit.
49 posted on 01/13/2003 4:17:11 PM PST by DannyTN
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To: Enemy Of The State
Anyone who does not believe think that Japan has not already made all necessary preparations for this move, and have even fabricated the necessary components, is living in a dream world.

Japanese nukes undoubtably already exist in disassembled form. The "183" days mentioned here is a smoke screen.

They have all the technology they need and are very paranoid about Chinese domination of the area.
50 posted on 01/13/2003 4:19:38 PM PST by Ronin
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