Perspectives on nuclear abolition in connection with the Survey on Nuclear Weapons, Part 3

Comment by respondent to the survey: “Is a nuclear-weapon free zone that includes North Korea possible?”

Akira Kawasaki, 39, Executive Committee Member of Peace Boat, an international NGO
Effective security system needed, there is a limit to what can be achieved with “pressure politics”

Interviewed by Tsuyoshi Kubota

The diplomatic pressure the Bush administration applied to North Korea resulted in a nuclear test, but when the United States shifted to dialogue, North Korea embarked on a process to eliminate its nuclear weapons. This clearly showed the limits of a policy of force. Now is the time to engage in a series of strenuous dialogues toward the creation of a nuclear-weapon free zone in Northeast Asia.

The concept behind a nuclear-weapon free zone in Northeast Asia is that Japan, South Korea and North Korea must declare themselves nuclear-weapon free and the U.S., China and Russia must pledge not to launch a nuclear attack against them. Those who distrust North Korea on account of the abduction issue or believe in nuclear deterrence question whether this is possible.

Emotionally, I understand why the thought of giving up one’s weapons in the face of one’s enemies is frightening, but we coexist with our neighbors. We must face North Korea and China keeping in mind that our disarmament will also prompt their disarmament.

From 2002 through 2006 President Bush referred to North Korea as part of the “axis of evil,” criticized its regime and applied continual pressure.

The U.S. and U.K. cited the presence of weapons of mass destruction as the reason for the invasion of Iraq. They effectively halted inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other organs to wage war, and in the end no weapons of mass destruction were found. The U.S. administration lost not only the support of many of its citizens but also a great deal of international credibility.

What is important is that a situation has been created in which North Korea’s nuclear weapons can be verified. With the change in U.S. policy, North Korea declared its nuclear program. It should not be a question of military experts smugly making conjectures; the facts must be disclosed within a fair and transparent international framework. The lessons of Iraq must be put to use in the denuclearization of North Korea.

There are nuclear-weapon free zones in such areas as Central and South America, Africa and the South Pacific. Mongolia declared itself a nuclear-free nation, and this status was recognized by a resolution of the United Nations.

It stands to reason that A-bombed Japan should become a nuclear weapon-free zone. Japan has its three non-nuclear principles, but ideally it should enact a law making Japan a nuclear-weapon free nation and make that an international commitment.

From a practical standpoint, how should Japan deal with its “secret agreement” with the U.S. when one of Japan’s three non-nuclear principles prohibits bringing nuclear weapons into the country? There are suspicions that nuclear weapons have already been brought into Japan aboard ships. Can the Japanese government enact a law making Japan a nuclear-weapon free nation? This will likely be opposed by the U.S., which wishes to keep open the option to deploy nuclear weapons.

The citizens of Japan are beginning to think that Japan cannot merely continue to rely on the U.S. It is also time for the political leadership to abandon its belief in the superiority of the Japan-U.S. alliance. Is the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty protecting Japan? Or is it heightening tensions with China and North Korea?

In order to create an environment in which we feel safe without nuclear weapons, we must create our own security system. If we do that, the role of nuclear weapons and of the security treaty will be lessened, which will lead to an easing of tensions.

The declaration issued by the Toyako Summit included the language: “transparent reductions in nuclear weapons.” In September the G8 Lower House Speakers will meet in Hiroshima.

The major powers proposed nuclear disarmament in order to put the brakes on the arms buildups of China and Pakistan. It stands to reason that the U.S. and Russia, which possess the majority of nuclear weapons, should take the lead and proceed with reducing their nuclear arsenals.

This was the first time a clear demand for reductions was incorporated into the summit statement. At the Summit of Lower House Speakers, Japan needs to exercise leadership and take advantage of this consensus. Japan should also propose debate in the Diet on the concept of a nuclear-weapon free zone and a review conference on the 2010 non-proliferation treaty.

Akira Kawasaki
Born in Tokyo in 1968. Part-time instructor at Keisen University. Research associate at the Nanzan University Institute for Social Ethics. In May served as Secretary-General, Japan Organizing Committee of the Global Article 9 Conference to Abolish War.

(Originally published on July 28, 2008)

For the complete results of our Survey on Nuclear Weapons, please click here.