Editorial: U.S. Subcritical Nuclear Experiment

Why doesn’t the A-bombed nation protest nuclear testing?

The United States has again pressed ahead with a subcritical nuclear experiment. It must be said that this action undertaken by the nuclear superpower is reckless and unacceptable.

After assuming the presidency, U.S. President Barack Obama boldly declared the pursuit of “a world without nuclear weapons” in a speech he made in Prague. We can’t help but wonder where that enthusiasm for nuclear abolition has gone.

The A-bomb survivors have come to feel betrayed. This is the fourth subcritical nuclear experiment conducted by the United States since Mr. Obama took office, and the A-bombed city of Hiroshima is now thoroughly appalled and exasperated.

As in the past three nuclear tests by the Obama administration, the government did not inform the media and local residents living in the vicinity of the test site in advance. Meanwhile, the test this time differed from the past three in that the government announced the experiment right after the test was performed.

Moreover, the U.S. government took the unprecedented step of releasing video that captures a portion of the experiment at a user-generated site on the Internet. Some view this move as the government’s attempt to demonstrate the transparency of U.S. nuclear policy.

Even if this is the case, we wonder why Mr. Obama, who just won reelection, would go ahead with the test at this time.

Tensions have been rising in the Middle East amid concerns that Israel, a de facto nuclear power, may stage an attack against Iran, which is suspected of developing nuclear weapons. In addition, North Korea has announced the future launch of a “satellite,” which could become an intercontinental ballistic missile once loaded with a nuclear warhead.

Apparently, the United States felt it could capitalize on such timing. If it believes, however, that its display of overwhelming nuclear capability will lead Iran and North Korea to give up their nuclear ambitions, it is sadly mistaken.

The history of the world following World War II reveals the arrogance of the nuclear superpowers, who have clung to their own nuclear arsenals, inviting wider nuclear proliferation. Now that the Cold War between East and West is long over, the posture of depending on nuclear weapons for national security is an anachronism.

U.S. authorities issued a statement saying that the experiment was conducted in order to maintain the safety and effectiveness of that nation’s nuclear arms. But testing the might of a weapon that would spew forth radioactive material and annihilate the earth and the human race along with it is, in itself, an act that moves the international community farther away from “safety.”

The United States also insists that a subcritical nuclear test is not in violation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), as a subcritical nuclear test does not accompany a nuclear blast. But, while the United States has signed the CTBT, Congress has been slow in ratifying the treaty. Shouldn’t the Obama administration first put earnest efforts into persuading Congress to ratify the CTBT?

In his Prague address, Mr. Obama also stated clearly that the United States would maintain its nuclear arsenal as long as nuclear weapons existed in the world. These subcritical nuclear experiments could thus be seen as deeds matching his words.

If, in reality, these nuclear tests were carried out in line with his statement, we wonder what the president thinks about the fact that his speech in Prague led him to win the Nobel Peace Prize. If he pursues “a world riddled with nuclear weapons” instead, he should return his Nobel Prize with good grace.

At this year’s U.N. General Assembly, more than 30 nations, including Switzerland and Norway, issued a joint statement declaring that nuclear weapons are antithetical to human existence. A subcritical nuclear experiment can be described as an act which runs directly counter to the trend of the international community.

Nevertheless, Japan, the A-bombed nation itself, has turned its back on this trend, which raises questions about its attitude. Japan not only refused to sign the joint statement, it holds fast to its position of not protesting the U.S. subcritical nuclear tests.

In what respect can this be called “peace diplomacy” of an A-bombed nation? Coincidentally, we are in the midst of Lower House elections. We hope that each political party and candidate will discuss this point fully.

(Originally published on December 8, 2012)