In what could come as a major embarrassment to Japan's strident anti-nuclear stance, Japanese companies have been found to have played a key role in supplying at least 6,000 ring magnets and other materials to rogue Pakistani scientist AQ Khan.
This supply "knowingly or unknowingly" helped Islamabad to acquire nuclear capability and were incorporated in its supply framework, it emerged on Monday.
"Japanese companies played a key role in supplying equipment used for Pakistan's nuclear development," Japan's
Kyodo News reported, quoting the outcome of its investigations in Islamabad and Tokyo.
Comments by Khan and former employees of the companies reveal in detail for the first time how leading Japanese
manufacturers knowingly and unknowingly helped Pakistan acquire nuclear capability and were incorporated into its
Investigations revealed that both Khan and the head of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission visited Japan at least
once in the 1980s to shop for their respective programmes.
Khan, dubbed the "father of Pakistan's nuclear programme," told Kyodo in a written interview that Khan Research Laboratories acquired a wide range of machines, laboratory equipment and metal products from Japan.
One of the major acquisitions was the import of ring magnets, a key device required to manufacture centrifuges
used for enriching uranium, Khan said.
In addition, maraging steel, beryllium thin sheets, beryllium-copper rods and other metal alloys having nuclear applications were also acquired from Japanese firms, according to Khan.
"Japan was also a very, very important country for our imports," Khan said and identified several Japanese companies
from which materials, machines and equipment was acquired, the report said.
According to Khan, a mid-sized Tokyo-based trading company, Western Trading, which went bankrupt in 2004, acted
as the point of contact with Khan's side.
Mian Mohammad Farooq, a late Pakistani businessman who headed a Pakistani trading company, brokered several important transactions for Pakistan's nuclear programme with Japan and several other countries.
According to a former employee of Western Trading who spoke on condition of anonymity, the company in the late
1980s exported to Pakistan at least 6,000 ring magnets made by a major Japanese metals producer. Khan also confirmed it.
The former employee said he never heard what the magnets would be used for. "As a businessmen of a trading company, the priority is to sell goods," he said, but hastened to add, "of course I always obeyed the export laws."
Khan also told Kyodo that another key purchase was an electron microscope from Japan Electron Optics Laboratory. An electron microscope is required for testing the strength of the alloys used in the manufacture of centrifuges.
A former JEOL employee of who spoke on condition of anonymity said two such microscopes and an X-ray diffractometer were sold to Khan's organisation for more than 60 million yen. In the interview, he clearly indicated that
he was aware of the nuclear nature of the work in which Khan was involved.
"Khan said he wanted to buy a JEOL electron microscope," the former employee said, adding that "the negotiations went smoothly."
In Tokyo, JEOL confirmed in response to a query by Kyodo that it had exported an electron microscope to Khan
Research Laboratories in the 1980s but said it was unaware of the work in which the organization was involved.
Kyodo News was also able to confirm that another company, Hitachi Seiki, which went bankrupt in 2002, also
supplied equipment such as automatic lathes to Khan through Western Trading.
A Pakistani court earlier this month declared Khan a free man, abolishing his five-year house arrest and other government-imposed restrictions