Perspectives on nuclear abolition in connection with the Survey on Nuclear Weapons, Part 5

Comment by respondent to the survey: “The NPT has been undermined by the double standard of the U.S. I have doubts about its effectiveness.”

Noriko Sado, 35, Associate Professor at Hiroshima Shudo University Only mechanism for nuclear abolition, Japan must play an active role

Interviewed by Miho Kuwajima

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) limits the nuclear nations to the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China and does not permit the possession of nuclear weapons by other countries. That is why it is referred to as an unfair treaty. North Korea quietly developed nuclear weapons and announced its withdrawal from the NPT. India, Pakistan, and Israel obtained nuclear weapons but are not signatories.

At the same time, it is significant that, with the exception of India, Pakistan and Israel, 190 nations have signed the treaty to work toward nuclear disarmament. The NPT is the only international mechanism for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Article VI of the treaty obligates all parties to the treaty “to pursue negotiations [on nuclear disarmament] in good faith.” This provides a good base for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

While applying economic sanctions to Iran because of suspicions about its claim that its nuclear development is for “peaceful uses,” the U.S. has tacitly approved Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons. The U.S. has also concluded a nuclear power pact with India. This double standard in U.S. diplomacy is undermining the foundation of the NPT regime.

This double standard has heightened mutual distrust in the Middle East. It also set a precedent whereby the U.S. supports the peaceful use of nuclear energy by India, which possesses nuclear weapons outside the framework of the NPT. If there is no consistency in the treatment of the non-signatory nations, the NPT will decline in value.

At the review conference in 2000, however, the U.S. agreed to “an unequivocal undertaking” to eliminate its nuclear arsenal and also accepted the final document, which called for Israel, India, and other nations not yet party to the treaty to accede to the treaty promptly. At the review conference in 2010, the U.S. should again be asked to take a similarly consistent stance without a double standard.

In the 1980s there were about 70,000 nuclear warheads. This figure has been cut to roughly 26,000, but in the survey 88% of the respondents in Japan and 98% of those overseas said the danger of nuclear proliferation is growing. Many people cited “the nuclear policies of the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France, and China” as the major reason for this.

In order to promote nuclear arms reduction, first of all the U.S. and Russia, each of which possesses more than 10,000 nuclear weapons, must take the initiative. In the 2002 Moscow treaty the Bush administration agreed to reduce its strategic nuclear warheads to between 1,700 and 2,200, but absolutely no progress has been made.

At the NPT review conferences, which are held every five years, the nuclear powers are questioned by the international community about the results of their nuclear disarmament efforts. The non-nuclear nations should cooperate to put pressure on the U.S. and Russia and get these two nuclear superpowers to proceed with nuclear arms reduction under numerical targets.

After former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and three others issued statements calling for “a world free of nuclear weapons,” in February, the government of Norway sponsored an International Conference on Nuclear Disarmament. When he came to Japan in June, Kevin Rudd, prime minister of Australia, called on the Japanese government to establish an International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.

In anticipation of the review conference to be held only two years from now, other countries have been proposing specific nuclear disarmament plans that will maintain and enhance the NPT regime. Along with such undertakings, Japan should get out from under the “nuclear umbrella” and take a strong stance in favor of abolition.

Mayors for Peace has propounded a Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol in order to achieve the abolition of nuclear weapons by 2020. The Japanese government needs to support it.

At the next conference, we must get the U.S. to eliminate its double standard and then get the nuclear nations to agree to further reductions in nuclear arms.

Noriko Sado
Born in Hiroshima in 1972. Earned a Ph.D. from Osaka University in 2000. Assumed her current post after working as a research fellow at Osaka University and at the Japan Institute of International Affairs. Specializes in peace studies and international security theory.

(Originally published on July 30, 2008)

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