Worldwide Control of Nuclear Capability

Ronald DORE
Visiting Fellow, RIETI

The Japanese army, referred to as the Self Defense Force (SDF), has finally joined "the coalition of the willing." When Japan's contribution to peacekeeping and military operations was a hot topic a dozen or so years ago and the law was changed to allow troops to be dispatched overseas, one controversial point remained unresolved. Should Japan's troops only take part in peacekeeping operations that are under direct U.N. command? Or, could they join in multinational military operations, like the Gulf War, if a U.S.-led multinational force acted under the mandate of a unanimous resolution by the U.N. general assembly?

At that time I had the impression that the "PKO only" interpretation prevailed in Japan. After all, "A U.N.-centred foreign policy" had been a central slogan since the end of the Second World War. But today, Japanese troops are in Iraq, not as part of a multinational force sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council, but to clean up after a war started by a U.S.-led "coalition of the willing" which failed to get the sanction even of a 9-member majority in the U.N. Security Council. Whether one regards this as a step forward or a step back, it's quite a striking development.

However, the chief purpose of this article is not to debate the justice of the cause, discuss the merits of dispatching the SDF to Iraq or analyze the curious trends in public opinion polls on these matters.

What I really want to point out is that wider issues than just Iraq are facing those of us in small and medium-sized countries with a choice. Should we work toward a legal global order built on a U.N.-based international conciliar system or whether we settle for a U.S.-based discretionary system backed by that nation's overwhelming military might.

Nuclear nonproliferation mechanisms are of particular importance, and next year sees the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. In the meantime, advocates of each of the above stances have been actively stating their cases. For example, on the one hand see President George Bush's speech at the National Defence University on February 11 and on the other the article by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed El Baradei in the New York Times the following day.

There is no great difference of opinion over immediate issues. Both sides agree on the need to root out the international black market in nuclear weapons technology and equipment that was revealed by intelligence coming out of Pakistan and Libya. Both also emphasise the need to limit the processing of concentrated nuclear waste to certain countries and make it subject to international control. The differences are over the methods employed and the ultimate goal. El Baradei envisages a mechanism that reflects the opinions of countries without nuclear weapons and hands control to the IAEA while putting pressure on nuclear nations to dismantle their weapons systems.

Bush, on the other hand, sees a situation where the nuclear nations - in particular the four core countries comprising the U.S., the U.K., France and Israel (which is tacitly recognised as possessing nuclear weapons), joined by Russia, China, India and Pakistan, which inevitably have to be recognised as nuclear nations - conclude a treaty making it the role of U.S. hegemony to build a mechanism that prevents the spread of nuclear weapons capability to other countries, a mechanism managed by U.S. intelligence agencies and enforced largely by U.S. military action. Already, the Bush administration claims it has succeeded in forcing Libya into a change of heart. It has made it give up its nuclear weapons programme thanks to the Iraq war, which showed that the U.S. would not hesitate to launch an outright attack.

Japan is already part of U.S. missile defense plans and recently those who have accepted the doctrine of collective defense seem to be aiming at integrating Japan's security plans ever more closely into the American strategic system. It seems to me important to resist hysteria over the North Korean nuclear issue and to think more in the long-term - particularly about keeping the management and control of nuclear capabilities under multilateral, not unilateral auspices.

>> Original text in Japanese

Source: "Jidai wo yomu" column, Tokyo Shimbun, February 22, 2004.

February 22, 2004 Tokyo Shimbun

March 29, 2004

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