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Has Abe forgotten?

November 12, 2016


EDITORIAL: Japan’s nuclear deal with India undermines its key principles



Given the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused by the 1945 atomic bombings of these cities, many Japanese harbor a profound desire to see the world rid itself of nuclear weapons.

Yet, the Abe administration is behaving as if it has forgotten Japan’s fundamental principles concerning these weapons of mass destruction based on its status as the only nation that has ever sustained nuclear attacks.

The government signed an agreement Nov. 11 that opens the door to nuclear trade with India.

India has developed and now possesses nuclear arms. It has not joined the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Signing a nuclear trade deal with a country that has shunned the treaty designed to stop the spread of nuclear weapons is itself a big mistake. Besides, the agreement contains many questionable and worrisome elements.

The pact allows Japan to provide nuclear technology to India without sufficient guarantee that New Delhi will not conduct nuclear arms tests.

New Delhi has imposed a voluntary moratorium on nuclear tests. The focus of the negotiations between the two countries over the agreement was what kind of action Japan can take in case India resumes testing nuclear arms.

A clause that allows Tokyo to suspend and revoke the agreement if India conducts a nuclear test has not been inserted into the main body of the agreement. Instead, it has been relegated to a related document.

Not only that, a separate clause suggests that when India detonates a nuclear device as a test, Japan will consider whether the test is a countermeasure against actions by countries like archrival Pakistan.

There is even a provision to keep the door open to India’s production of highly enriched uranium, a key ingredient for an atomic bomb.

None of the nuclear trade agreements Japan has signed with countries that are parties to the NPT contains such a provision.

This stipulation has been included in the accord, apparently at India’s insistence. But it is simply too risky.

The pact doesn’t make it clear whether India has to immediately shut down reactors using Japanese technology when it carries out a nuclear test. On the other hand, it says Japan must pay compensation to India when Tokyo decides to withdraw the materials and equipment it has provided for the operation of the nuclear power plants.

These elements of the agreement can only be described as major concessions. Japan clearly has fallen for the allure of India’s rapidly growing market, which offers great opportunities to make profits quickly.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry asserts that the agreement is similar to India’s deal with the United States, which is the strictest among all the nuclear trade agreements the South Asian power has concluded with other countries.

However, it doesn’t reflect Japan's unique position as the only nation to have sustained atomic bombing, nor include any additional measure to prevent nuclear proliferation.

The mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have repeatedly voiced strong objections to the agreement. They argue that the deal could be a serious impediment to efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. They also warn that the nuclear materials, technologies and equipment provided by Japan under the deal could be used for the development of nuclear arms.

It’s hard to fathom why the Abe administration has turned a deaf ear to their pleas.

India already has a nuclear agreement with Russia as well as the United States and France.

As it has weighed options for introducing nuclear technology, New Delhi has been focusing on the choice between two camps--Japan or the United States and France, where Japanese technology is used in reactors, on the one hand and Russia on the other.

Efforts by the United States, France and Japan to supply nuclear technology to India are driven partly by the geopolitical motive of countering Russia’s strategic moves while putting pressure on China, which has been expanding its influence in the region.

Even so, Tokyo strongly resisted pressure from Washington and Paris in striking a nuclear trade agreement with New Delhi.

That’s because Tokyo was concerned that such a deal could contribute to emasculating the global nuclear nonproliferation system based on the NPT.

As a country that has first-hand experiences of nuclear devastation, Japan must never take an action that can ruin the global nonproliferation safeguards. We demand that both the ruling and opposition camps engage in exhaustive Diet debate on the agreement.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 12

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