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Friday, Aug. 6, 2010


Accelerate nuclear disarmament

This year Hiroshima and Nagasaki hold their peace memorial services to mark the 65th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombings of them as the world feels the "global momentum toward a nuclear weapons-free world," as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon observes. It is important that every nation and citizens the world over do their best to accelerate this momentum so that people can live free from the fear of nuclear weapons.

U.S. President Barack Obama's April 2009 speech in Prague, in which he made clear the U.S. commitment "to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," has clearly contributed to building this momentum. In his speech, he also said that "as a nuclear power, as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act" toward building a world without nuclear weapons.

In September 2009, the United Nations Security Council, attended by the five permanent UNSC member states, which are nuclear-weapons states — the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China — and the nonpermanent member states, including Japan, adopted a resolution to "seek a safer world for all and create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons."

In April of this year, the U.S. and Russia, which together hold nearly 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons, signed a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which caps the two countries' deployed warheads at 1,550 — 30 percent below the levels agreed in the 2002 Moscow Treaty, although it does not require actual destruction of the shelved warheads.

Later the same month, the U.S. announced its Nuclear Posture Review, which said that nuclear weapons should play a diminished role in U.S. military strategy and that the U.S. "will not develop new nuclear weapons." The U.S. refrained from adopting a "no first use" policy but pledged not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against states that are signatories to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and are in compliance with all obligations under the treaty.

April also saw 47 countries adopt, at a nuclear security summit, a 12-point communique to strengthen nuclear security, reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism and secure all vulnerable nuclear material within four years. The next month, 189 countries at the U.N.'s NPT Review Conference reconfirmed their commitment to the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and agreed to hold a regional conference in 2012 that would eliminate weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

The peace memorial service in Hiroshima carries the imprint of the momentum created by those events. Mr. Ban is the first U.N. secretary general to attend it and to meet with "hibakusha" or A-bomb survivors. All the countries, especially those possessing nuclear weapons, should heed his call that they "act within a time frame so that at least some hibakusha will live to see the end of all nuclear weapons."

Government representatives from the U.S., Britain and France, including U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos, also will attend the annual ceremony for the first time. The purpose of the ambassador's attendance is not so much to pray for the souls of individual atomic-bomb victims as to "express respect for all of the victims of World War II." Still his presence is significant. It represents the U.S. desire to play a leading role in global efforts toward the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons.

Despite the momentum for a nuclear weapons-free world, the situation concerning nuclear nonproliferation in East Asia is difficult. North Korea has not shown any sign of returning to the six-party talks to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. Japan, the U.S. and South Korea should persevere in working to get the North to return to the talks and to change the attitude of China, which chairs the talks and maintains close ties with Pyongyang. In the long run, countries around the North should endeavor to create an environment in which it does not feel threatened and does not see the need to possess nuclear weapons.

Japan should also be careful about its talks with India over a pact to allow India to import civilian nuclear technology and equipment from Japan. Japan should have the courage to end the talks if India fails to commit itself to nonproliferation efforts such as ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty and stopping production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. Japan also should try to get India and Pakistan, both of which possess nuclear arms, to join the NPT.

Although Japan advocates a nuclear weapons-free world, its continued reliance on the U.S. nuclear umbrella could impede its efforts to help create such a world. At the very least, it should uphold steadfastly its three-point nonnuclear principle of not "producing" and not "possessing" nuclear weapons and not allowing them to be "brought in." This pronounced nonnuclear principle is the strongest lever in trying to get the nuclear weapons states to reduce their arsenals.

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