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Commentary: Japanese views on the Japan-India nuclear pact

  • 2015-12-14 15:00:00
  • , Asahi
  • Translation

(Asahi: December 13, 2015 – p. 9)

 

 At their talks on Dec. 12, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached an agreement in principle for Japan to supply nuclear energy technology to India. The Asahi Shimbun spoke with experts in both countries about the significance of Japan’s cooperation in the field of nuclear power with India, a nation that possesses nuclear weapons. (Translated here are the interviews with Japanese experts.)

 

 Contributing to the collapse of the NPT system: Masaaki Fukunaga, visiting professor at the Center for South Asian Studies at Gifu Women’s University

 

 The biggest problem with the [Japan-India] pact is that it gives special treatment to India and recognizes it as a legitimate nuclear power, even though India has turned its back on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), a pillar of the international nonproliferation framework. Not only does the pact signify the Japanese government’s abandonment of the disarmament and nonproliferation diplomacy it has advocated, but it will also lead to the assisting in the collapse of the NPT framework by Japan, a country that has suffered atomic attacks.

 

 The NPT is an unfair treaty that recognizes the five countries of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China as nuclear powers but does not permit other countries to possess nuclear weapons. Despite this, 191 countries and regions have joined because they believe that not increasing the number of nuclear powers will benefit humankind.

 

 The Japanese government says that it will halt cooperation if India engages in nuclear weapons testing; however, India also has not joined the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (signatories: 183 nations), a global ban on nuclear explosive testing. The worst-case scenario would be for India to increase its production of nuclear weapons by taking the spent nuclear fuel resulting from the nuclear energy and related materials and equipment that it bought from Japan and reprocessing it to generate plutonium that can be diverted to military ends.

 

 It is said that Japanese corporations have an 80% share of the market for large steel vessels used in nuclear reactor pressure vessels. Japanese technology is indispensable in order to export nuclear energy to India, and the United States and others wanting to export nuclear energy to the country are waiting for the Japan-India pact. Japan faces a most critical decision here.

 

 Creating pacts with India is a global trend: Satoru Nagao, research fellow at the Tokyo Foundation

 

 I do not think that Japan’s forming a nuclear energy pact with India presents any problem provided a mechanism is in place for “the cooperation to be suspended if India resumes nuclear weapons testing.”

 

 The NPT sets forth the principle that cooperation in nuclear energy for peaceful uses shall not be provided to countries like India. There is no prospect for India to join the NPT, however. Under the NPT, it is legal for India’s neighbor, China, to possess nuclear weapons and yet India, which was successful in nuclear weapons testing ten years later, is not recognized as a nuclear power.

 

 In light of this, the United States concluded a nuclear energy pact with India in 2008, recognizing India’s efforts to accept inspections of civilian use reactors by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). More than ten countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Canada, and South Korea, have concluded such agreements with India. This is an international trend.

 

 Behind the U.S.-India treaty is the U.S. estimation that no country seeking to be the seventh nuclear power will arise in the foreseeable future, even if India is treated in effect as the “sixth nuclear power.” Unlike Pakistan and North Korea, India is not involved in the “nuclear black market.”

 

 From the nuclear pact, Japan gains more than just the benefits of infrastructure export. Today China is expanding its influence on its neighbor, Pakistan, through the export of nuclear power, and Japan can contribute to the stability of the power balance in the region if it supports India’s nuclear energy plan, which is indispensable for the nation’s economic development.

 

 (Interviewer for both interviews: Hajimu Takeda)

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