Prime Minister defends approval of U.S.-India nuclear pact

by Masakazu Domen and Yumi Kanazaki, Staff Writers

Following the central government’s approval of the U.S.-India Nuclear Agreement, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda responded to questions from the media on the evening of September 8. India has balked at signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) but the agreement authorizes an exception and allows the U.S. to supply nuclear fuel and technology to India. Mr. Fukuda commented, “Approval was granted for an exceptional case and if a violation is detected, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) will hold discussions,” stressing that nuclear proliferation will be averted.

Mr. Fukuda was speaking to the media in an informal setting for the first time in a week. He had refused to talk to reporters in such a setting since September 1, when he announced his intention to resign as prime minister.

The Japanese government had sidestepped a clear explanation of its stance, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura remarked, “We could not offer concrete statements because the NSG deliberations are closed to the public. But now that the matter has been concluded, we are accountable to the people for our position.”

At a regular press conference, Mitoji Yabunaka, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, defended the administration’s handling of the issue, saying, “We took into consideration the views of those in the A-bombed cities. At the same time, the problem of climate change and the International Atomic Energy Agency’s positive evaluation of inspections based on the U.S.-India pact made it a tough decision.”

Harufumi Mochizuki, Vice-Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry stated at another press conference that approving the treaty will better serve the aim of nonproliferation. Mr. Mochizuki added that the government will urge India to sign the NPT promptly. He also expressed a positive view over the possibility of a future agreement between Japan and India if India requests Japan’s cooperation in atomic energy development.

(Originally published on September 9, 2008)

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