US demands Japan reduce its plutonium stockpiles | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

US demands Japan reduce its plutonium stockpiles

The U.S. has called on Japan to reduce its high levels of stockpiled plutonium, a move that comes as the Trump administration seeks to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons, Nikkei has learned.

The request was made by the U.S. Department of State and National Security Council ahead of next month's extension of a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement, according to people familiar with the matter.

Japan has about 47 tons of the radioactive element -- enough to produce around 6,000 nuclear warheads. Foreign and domestic critics have pointed to these reserves as a ready source of bomb-making material should Japan choose to become a nuclear weapons state.

Plutonium production is banned in principle, but energy-poor Japan has been allowed to extract the material from spent nuclear fuel rods under the bilateral pact.

Japan insists that it does not maintain plutonium reserves "without specified purposes." Critics in Japan and elsewhere, including China and some in the U.S. Congress, have expressed concern about the size of these stockpiles.