Nuclear weapons can be eliminated: Interview with Yoriko Kawaguchi, co-chair of ICNND

by Masakazu Domen, Staff Writer

Former Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi is the co-chair of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND), a joint initiative by the Japanese and Australian governments. The Chugoku Shimbun spoke with Ms. Kawaguchi about the prospects of ICNND discussions and measures to bring about nuclear abolition.

The U.S. and Russia have agreed to begin negotiations on reductions of nuclear arms at a summit meeting, while U.S. President Barack Obama vowed that he would work toward a world without nuclear weapons. How will ICNND make the most of this opportunity?
ICNND will compile a strong report that will support the aim of nuclear abolition and appeal for nuclear abolition to world leaders. Since his presidential campaign, Mr. Obama has issued several positive statements in regard to nuclear abolition. I was particularly encouraged by his speech in the Czech Republic, in which he revealed his vision for eliminating nuclear weapons from the world.

Some hold a skeptical view of this vision, suggesting the U.S. might simply abandon its older weapons under the name of nuclear disarmament.
That isn’t true. Mr. Obama said he would seek to eliminate all nuclear weapons. At the second ICNND meeting held in February in Washington, D.C., I met with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones and I called for the U.S. to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). I have sensed positive signs in regard to the path the U.S. government is going to take.

Does ICNND advocate a specific numerical target for nuclear reductions, as in “nuclear weapons are reduced to such and such a number by such and such a year”?
We will determine a numerical target as we compile the report. In the process of pursuing the elimination of nuclear weapons, we will reach a phase called “vantage point,” or a lookout point from which we must establish if nuclear abolition can truly be envisaged. For that stage, it will be important to include a specific numerical target in terms of reducing nuclear warheads.

Is the ICNND considering the idea of calling on the nuclear powers to adopt a policy of “no first use,” under which the nuclear weapons states would agree not to use nuclear weapons unless they themselves suffered a nuclear attack? What is the intent of this idea?
The phrase of “no first use” is gaining in awareness. The intent of this idea is the hope that the nuclear powers will make clear that their nuclear weapons are for the deterrence of nuclear weapons only. If nuclear weapons are deemed necessary for deterrence of every sort of weapon, there will be no way to prevent non-nuclear states from trying to possess them. The important thing is how to reduce the value of nuclear weapons.

How will you take the lead for the final ICNND meeting, set for the city of Hiroshima in October?
Above anything else, I would like every commission member to visit Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the A-Bomb Dome. There are a variety of rationales for nuclear abolition, but the starting point for this goal is to feel, from the bottom of one’s heart, that these are weapons which human beings simply must not use. We hope to compile a report with accurate analysis and a realistic action plan that can convince world leaders to take action toward the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Yoriko Kawaguchi
After serving as the deputy director-general at the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and a managing director at Suntory Ltd., Ms. Kawaguchi held the posts of minister of the environment and minister of foreign affairs. She is now a member of the Upper House of the Diet.

The International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND)
Former Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi and former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans serve as co-chairs of ICNND, which is comprised of 15 former senior government officials and others from such nations as the U.S., Russia, India, and Pakistan. ICNND is seeking to propose effective measures for nuclear abolition in the run-up to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference in the spring of 2010.

(Originally published on April 15, 2009)

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