The Far Eastern Economic Review [13 January, 2009] "Japan's Mistake at the NSG" By KONO TARO

January 13, 2009 12:00 AM

Every year, Japan submits a resolution on nuclear disarmament to the United Nations General Assembly. This year was no different, and the 15th such resolution was submitted in October. As the only country in the world against which nuclear weapons have been used, Japan understands the horror and devastation that they can cause. Our strong stance on nonproliferation and the fact that we do not possess nuclear weapons have been powerful arguments in favor of Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Quite rightly, for a country so committed to nonproliferation, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not mince it words when commenting on this year's nuclear disarmament resolution: "The Government of Japan believes that there is need for further efforts to maintain and consolidate the international disarmament and nonproliferation regime based on the NPT. The submission of this draft resolution represents one of Japan's concrete efforts."

I am beginning to wonder, though, what exactly Japan's other "concrete efforts" are. I cannot imagine that the Japanese representatives who agreed to the U.S.-India Nuclear Cooperation Agreement at the August meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) envisaged their yes vote as any sort of effort towards nuclear disarmament. The U.S.-India Nuclear Deal breaks every rule in the nonproliferation book, and Japan did nothing to stop it.

India has not signed the NPT, or the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), nor does it have anything near comprehensive nuclear safeguards. Yet the international community deemed it appropriate to grant India the privilege of civilian nuclear cooperation. All other non-nuclear weapons states have had to give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons in order to build nuclear power plants. However, India, who used materials and technology provided under a civilian agreement back in the 1970s to construct its first nuclear weapons, gets a special ticket.

America formed the NSG because of India's nuclear dishonesty. Did someone in the White House forget to tell President Bush? I doubt it. The Bush administration knows exactly how contrived this deal is, and exactly how much damage it is already doing to the global non-proliferation effort. Yet they went ahead with it anyway, and even had the gall to attempt to argue at the same time that this was a deal that would be good for nonproliferation.

But how can a deal that prompts the Pakistani president to threaten the possibility of a nuclear arms race, that undermines a central tenet of the NPT, that renders worthless the NSG Guidelines, be good for non-proliferation? China has already stated that it plans to sell two nuclear power plants to Pakistan, and it will sell them with or without the NSG's approval. North Korea looks set to stall once again with the cessation of its nuclear program; who wouldn't when you can get a deal like India's?

The U.S.-India Nuclear Deal will not stop India producing nuclear warheads. In fact, for the next few years, as India's uranium mining and milling shortfall continues, the international uranium that India now has access to will free up indigenous Indian uranium for use in weapons manufacturing. If this were a deal with any serious non-proliferation concerns, it would have required India to sign the CTBT, as well as come to an international agreement on the cessation of fissile material production.

But the fact is the deal does none of these things. It is a deal made in spite of, not because of, global nonproliferation concerns, and its main aim is to cement a strategic partnership between the U.S. and India. If the Japanese Government was really committed to maintaining and consolidating the international nuclear disarmament regime based on the NPT, it would have never voted in favour of the deal. We cannot change our vote now, but we could at least admit we were wrong, and try to fix this mess.

The way forward from here is not simple, but we must attempt to redress the imbalance that the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal has created. If we leave things as they are, nonproliferation efforts will continue to suffer, as both the NPT and NSG lose their validity. I hope that President-elect Barack Obama, unlike the Japanese government, is able to live up to his word. He says he wants to make the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide a central element of U.S. policy. America's signature on the CTBT, followed swiftly by India's, would be a step in the right direction.

This article was published simultaneously in the Japan Times.