Rich: A year or so ago I was talking to Arthur Waldron about the Japan-nuke issue. Just suppose (I asked him) that the Japanese government decided to go nuclear. How long would it take them to build a bomb? He: “Mmmm, oh, twenty-four hours, perhaps.”
It was an informal conversation and I am sure Arthur was exaggerating for effect, but his point was that it is foolish to underestimate Japan–even the placid, politically sluggish, demographically-imploding Japan of today. And that point is a true one.
As you implied though, what takes time in Japan is getting to the decision-making point.