Editorial: U.S. subcritical nuclear experiments are reckless acts

It has been learned that the United States carried out subcritical nuclear experiments in December 2010 and February 2011. These experiments run counter to international public opinion, desiring the elimination of nuclear weapons, and we cannot help but criticize these experiments as reckless acts.

Moreover, under the Obama administration, the United States has conducted a total of three nuclear experiments thus far, including the nuclear test which took place in September of last year. In the A-bombed city of Hiroshima, a feeling of disappointment, as well as indignation, has prevailed. Soon after Mr. Obama assumed the presidency, he loudly proclaimed that the United States would pursue “a world without nuclear weapons.” In reality, he has put more of his energy into the diplomatic goals of preventing nuclear proliferation and stopping nuclear terrorism.

However, the high-handed U.S. nuclear experiments are nothing but demonstrations of the fact that that nation intends to maintain its own nuclear capability. Under such circumstances, the United States lacks the ability to be persuasive, no matter how hard it presses other nations and terrorist groups to refrain from possessing nuclear weapons.

The United States argues that, like prior tests, the three experiments were not accompanied by nuclear explosions and so these experiments did not violate the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The United States also continues to claim that such tests have been conducted to assure the “reliability” of the nation's nuclear arsenal.

At the same time, there is a disturbing change. Since Mr. Obama took office, the U.S. government has stopped providing advance notice about its nuclear experiments to the media and to the residents in the vicinity of the nuclear test site.

In regard to the nuclear test held in September of last year, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), under the U.S. Department of Energy, announced the nuclear experiment soon after the test. News of the last two nuclear experiments, though, was posted on the NNSA website as late as June of this year.

NNSA was unable to offer a convincing reason for such a lengthy delay in disclosing this information. The agency has no basis to complain if the public suspects that it delayed the disclosure of information as a makeshift means of fending off criticism.

Seeking to prolong the life of aging nuclear weapons that were produced during the Cold War era, the United States is given to conducting frequent nuclear tests. At the same time, it is also believed that these experiments are intended to serve domestic political ends.

The United States has not ratified the CTBT. This is due to resistance, mainly from opposition Republicans, that ratification of the treaty would tie the hands of U.S. nuclear development.

In response, the Obama administration, which is pushing for the treaty to be ratified, has used nuclear experiments as a tool to persuade opponents, contending that the performance of nuclear weapons can be sustained by repeatedly carrying out subcritical nuclear tests.

The United States employs a strong nuclear capability as the centripetal force of its administration. This attitude itself is symbolic of the fact that the principle of “a world without nuclear weapons” has not been made manifest.

On August 6, 2010, U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos, acting as a representative of the nation that dropped the atomic bombs, attended Hiroshima's annual ceremony to mourn the A-bomb victims. In the A-bombed city, growing calls were then heard for the president himself to visit the city.

But these expectations have waned. In addition, news of the nuclear experiments was announced just as the summer marking the 66th year of the atomic bombing loomed. It cannot be denied that the A-bombed city of Hiroshima felt as if it had been dashed with cold water.

From this perspective, the slow response of the Japanese government is vexing.

Tetsuro Fukuyama, the deputy chief cabinet secretary, expressed the view yesterday that Japan, as a government, would not lodge a protest, since the subcritical nuclear tests did not violate the CTBT. However, didn't the administration of the Democratic Party of Japan clearly state that it would spearhead efforts for nuclear abolition?

Now, with the nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture drawing attention at home and abroad, appeals for the elimination of nuclear weapons and “No More Hibakusha” will widen the circle of empathy. We hope that the A-bombed city will take the lead in swaying the central government and further rousing international public opinion.

(Originally published on July 21, 2011)