The framework for preventing the spread of technology and materials for building nuclear weapons is becoming increasingly compromised. Even Japan, which has suffered atomic bombings, has joined the ranks of the world’s nations that are eager to pitch nuclear technology even to a country with nuclear weapons for the sake of commercial interests.
During a visit to India on Dec. 12, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, that the two countries will sign a deal on civil nuclear cooperation. The agreement would bolster the export of nuclear technology by Japanese enterprises.
India became in possession of nuclear weapons without joining the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Its relations with neighboring Pakistan, which also refused to join the NPT and armed itself with nuclear weapons, remain strained.
Providing nuclear technology to such a nation should be called an act of folly that makes light of the longstanding and persevering nuclear nonproliferation efforts of the global community and would further emasculate the nonproliferation regime.
Rising calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons in the years following World War II, when the world came under a threat of the potential use of nuclear weapons, were the driving force behind the NPT, which entered into force in 1970.
Nations of the world, including Japan, joined the treaty under its guiding principle, which obligates the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia to commit to nuclear disarmament in exchange for granting them the status of nuclear-weapon states. The NPT also allows the other countries to use nuclear power only for peaceful purposes.
Supplier nations made it a rule not to trade in nuclear technology with countries outside that framework. But the United States took the initiative in granting an exception to India in 2008. Since then, the United States, France, Russia, South Korea and other nations have all signed nuclear agreements with India.
Those countries are looking at India as a promising market for pitching nuclear power plant technology. That is because India already hosts about 20 nuclear reactors and plans to build 40 more at a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to build reactors in advanced nations.
The United States and other countries should realize that compromising the nuclear nonproliferation principles for the benefit of business opportunities would engender serious problems for the future.
Japan, among others, is a nation that should be taking the lead in creating a nuclear-free world. It not only knows about the tragic consequences of the use of nuclear weapons but also has experienced one of the world’s largest nuclear plant disasters and continues to be plagued by the resulting radioactive contamination.
Japan is the country that should be applying the brakes on any moves toward nuclear proliferation.
The previous administration led by the Democratic Party of Japan, however, opened negotiations on the nuclear deal with India five years ago. Both the DPJ government and Abe’s current administration cannot escape the charge of having forgotten the duty and responsibility of a nation that has suffered atomic bombings.
Abe told a news conference Dec. 12 that he would go along with India in pursuing a world free of nuclear weapons. But he has yet to provide a specific action to achieve that goal.
We are only left to wonder how we could explain to North Korea and Iran, which are insisting on their own nuclear development programs, why we are dealing differently with India. We could lose our convincing power for dissuading other nations from following in their footsteps.
The threat of nuclear arms will only increase as long as Japan, the United States and other countries, which should be guardians of the nonproliferation regime, are using their own hands to undermine its foundation.
The Asahi Shimbun