Japan’s misguided response to the U.S.-India nuclear pact

by Yumi Kanazaki, Staff Writer

At an emergency meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Japan consented to the U.S.-India Nuclear Agreement and the pact was approved by the NSG members. The fact that Japan agreed to the idea of changing the rule which prohibits nuclear technology from being exported to non-signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty amounts to the nation, the only nation to have experienced nuclear attack, promoting nuclear proliferation. By so doing, Japan has essentially ignored the appeal from Hiroshima and Nagasaki for a nuclear weapons-free world.

The Japanese government has cited several reasons for agreeing to the pact. Among them are: (1) Nuclear technology is effective in curbing global warming and (2) the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will make inspections of nuclear facilities in India and this will lead to greater transparency in regard to the use of these facilities.

Nuclear energy accounts for only three percent of the total power generation in India. It has been pointed out that the reduction of CO2 emissions in India will therefore be limited. Nuclear proliferation should be prevented in tandem with global warming. Japan, however, acts as if it is trying to solve only one of these issues. This raises the question of its seriousness in regard to promoting disarmament.

The proposed system of verifications by the IAEA is also problematic. Under this system, the nuclear facilities to be inspected are limited to those India itself designates. The others will not receive this same scrutiny. As a result, India will still be able to use the newly-acquired materials and technology to create nuclear weapons. Moreover, the Indian government announced only a temporary suspension of its nuclear testing which means that the possibility of India giving up its nuclear weapons is extremely low.

The U.S.-India pact has the potential to destabilize the NPT regime. China might provide Pakistan with similar assistance while a growing number of countries may deem it more beneficial for them to withdraw from the NPT to forge bilateral ties rather than remaining in the regime.

Unfortunately, Japan does not appear to have assumed leadership at the NSG meeting by steering other countries toward a stronger stance against nuclear proliferation. Condoning the pact between the U.S. and India was a misguided approach to this problem. Consequently, Japan has weakened its position, as the only A-bombed nation, in calling for the total abolition of nuclear weapons.

(Originally published on September 8, 2008)

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