0628 GMT February 25, 2020
Around 330 kilograms of the extremely fissionable element is scheduled for shipment to a nuclear facility in the southeastern US state of South Carolina by the end of March, AFP reported on Tuesday.
An official in Japan’s nuclear technology section at the Education Ministry has confirmed the shipment, adding that the material, supplied by the US, UK and France decades ago, was currently being stored in Tokyo’s Nuclear Science Research Institute.
"But we can't comment on further details, including the departure date and route, for security reasons," he stated.
The plutonium transfer comes ahead of a nuclear security summit in Washington.
The cache has been a source of international disquiet since 2006, when then Foreign Minister Taro Aso announced that Japan would not produce nuclear arms although it had the capability to do so.
Japan is the world’s only country to have been targeted in a nuclear attack, and based on policies adopted in 1967 refuses to manufacture, own or permit nuclear weapons on its soil. However, the Japanese government admitted in 2010 to striking earlier secret agreements with Washington to allow nuclear weapons storage in US bases on Japan’s Okinawa island.
During the Second World War, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing over 210,000 people.