DISARMAMENT: Less Than 1000 Nukes By 2025?


Nuclear Abolition News | IDN

By Taro Ichikawa
IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

HIROSHIMA (IDN) -- Is the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND) drifting away from the goal of a nuclear weapons free world? Is a small group of Japanese government officials colluding with U.S. conservatives to torpedo reduction in American nuclear weapons?


These questions loomed large in run-up to and during the Commission’s fourth meeting Oct. 18-20 in Hiroshima that along with Nagasaki suffered the U.S. atomic bomb assaults. The Commission co-chaired by former foreign minister of Japan, Yoriko Kawaguchi, and her erstwhile Australian counterpart, Gareth Evans, was launched as a joint initiative at the Japan-Australia Summit in July 2008

In Hiroshima, Japanese NGOs criticised the ICNND for taking a stance that is “far from citizens’ wish for the realization of nuclear abolition” as expressed by survivors of the atomic bomb, said Masayoshi Naito, a member of the board of directors of Japan Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, the Japan chapter of International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA).

Naito asked the ICNND to “make the best of this important moment” in history characterised by President Barack Obama’s initiative and the NPT review conference next May.

ICNND’s main objective is to issue, prior to the 2010 NPT Review Conference, a report with recommendations to contribute to the success of the Conference and unveil a final report in early January on a road map to the ultimate goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.

Media reports said that ICNND was setting an ambitious target of reducing nukes in the world from current level of more than 20,000 down to less than 1,000 by 2025. The initial target date was 2010.

According to the final draft obtained by Kyodo News Agency on the eve of the Hiroshima meeting, ICNND was proposing concrete steps: (1) Nuclear reduction by the U.S. and Russia; (2) coming into effect of Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); (3) ‘negative security assurances’ by way of nuclear weapons states pledging that they would not nuke against non-nuclear weapon states; and (4) laying the ground for multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations.

Analysts said that while previous ICNND draft reports had urged the U.S. to adopt a policy of limiting the "only purpose" of the use of nuke to deter nuclear war by next spring, the latest draft report had extended the deadline to 2012. The deadline of adopting the policy of not using nukes first had also been extended from 2010 to 2025.

This implies that concrete measures to lessen the political and military roles of nukes as steps prior to nuclear abolition had been dropped -- apparently because of the resistance by Japan which has been worried about the weakening of ‘nuclear umbrella’.


Analysts say that some in the Japanese government have strong reservations about the goal of bringing about "the world with less than 1000 nukes".

This was partly confirmed at a press conference Oct. 16 in Tokyo. ICNND’s Australian co-chair Evans argued that "It is vital that all nuclear weapon states should give a commitment to "first no use" by 2025. Otherwise, we will never reach our goal of nuclear abolition."

Japanese co-chair Kawaguchi emphasized -- at the same press conference -- that it is necessary to proceed step by step toward nuclear abolition, adding that "We will have to reduce the role of nuclear weapon in such a way that the stability of the world is not at risk."

The Hiroshima meeting is the last in a series of four to discuss ICNND‘s report. The Commission’s previous three meetings were held in Sydney, Washington and Moscow. In addition, the Latin American, Northeast Asian, Central Asian and South Asian regional meetings took place in Santiago, Beijing, Cairo, and New Delhi.


The Hiroshima meeting coincided with the World March initiated by ‘World Without Wars’, an international organization launched by the Humanist Movement that has been working for 15 years in the fields of pacifism and non-violence.

The World March called on the Japanese Government to “kick out U.S. bases”, a proposal in line with this civil society organization’s universal demand that foreign troops should withdraw from the territories of other countries. Local organizers described the demand made at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs as “unprecedented”.

According to Pressenza news agency, the World without Wars president, Rafa de la Rubia congratulated Japan for its anti-nuclear status and called on the country’s new government to maintain at all costs Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution that prohibits an act of war by the state.

In a letter addressed to the Japanese Prime Minister and handed to Yoshinori Takeda, deputy director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Division of the Non-Proliferation and Science Department, de la Rubia urged the Japanese government to “represent the true sentiment of the majority of her citizens and advance three initiatives at an international level: the elimination of nuclear weapons; the renunciation of war as a means to resolve conflicts at the same time as stridently defending article 9 from attack by those who wish to eliminate it; and the closure of foreign bases that are maintained on the territory of other nations”.

The Ministry official thanked the World March for having come to Japan and highlighted the efforts of civil society to raise awareness of the nuclear issue and pressurize governments to act for nuclear abolition.

Emphasizing the priority the new Japanese administration places on disarmament, the ministry official was reported saying: “The Japanese Government always underlines the importance and the big efforts by civil society… The Prime Minister in comparison with the former administration puts a very big stress on this issue. It’s high time to do some action from Government’s side and from your side.”

World March Japan organizer Makiko Sato however expressed dissatisfaction with the response of the Japanese government official. “It’s the same story all the time; they say the right things to civil society in meetings and then act in a totally contradictory way. But I’m very pleased because I think that may be the first time that anyone entered the Foreign Ministry and suggested the closure of U.S. bases.”


This kind of mixed joy is shared by Joseph Cirincione, president of the U.S.-based Ploughshares Fund and the author of ‘Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons’. In an article posted on the web Oct 12, Cirincione welcomes Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s remarks at the United Nations Sept. 23: "I highly approve of President Obama's courageous leadership… We will work together with the United States toward a world without nuclear weapons."

Cirincione is of the view that Prime Minister Hatoyama should consider writing an article for U.S. newspapers directly stating his views. “This would be an easy and very effective way to correct the false claims by speaking directly with the American people about Japan's position. He should use the opportunity to support the goal that he, President Obama and the Japanese and American publics share: to move towards the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. As Mr. Hatoyama has said, ‘we have no time to waste.’ Now is the time to act.”

Cirincione, who worked for nine years in the U.S. House of Representatives on the professional staff of the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Government Operations, has strong reasons in urging Hatoyama putting the record straight.

He writes: “U.S. officials are presently working hard to finish a new report that will determine the direction of U.S. nuclear policy and the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal for the next five to ten years. This report, the Nuclear Posture Review, is written by the Department of Defense and will be given to President Barack Obama at the end of the year.

“In preparing the report, defense officials are not citing the appeals from the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Nor are they citing the important statement of (the) prime minister . . . No, the most important Japanese voices in the United States right now are secret voices. A small group of conservative Japanese defense officials have spread the view that if the United States decreases its nuclear weapons, then Japan will build its own nuclear bombs.”

This issue emerged suddenly this year in the deeply-flawed report of the U.S. Strategic Posture Commission, chaired by former-Secretaries of Defense William Perry and James Schlesinger. Conservatives on the commission twice brought in Japanese officials to make these claims. As result, the report devoted a whole chapter to the issue of "extended deterrence". This is the theory that the U.S. nuclear arsenal protects U.S. allies who, therefore, do not have to build their own nuclear weapons.

Cirincione points out that Conservatives used these Japanese statements to justify keeping a massive U.S. nuclear arsenal indefinitely. Nuclear hawk Keith Payne, a member of the Commission, said, "If the U.S. extended nuclear deterrent loses credibility, some in Japan believe that other security options will have to be examined." (IDN-InDepthNews/20.10.09)

Copyright © 2009 IDN-InDepthNews Service

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