Asia

Balancing Act – Upholding the Legitimacy of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime

The Stimson
Center hosted a public panel discussion on “Balancing Act –
Upholding the Legitimacy of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime,
Maintaining the Credibility of the Deterrence in the US-Japan
Alliance”, featuring Brian Finlay, Senior Associate, Stimson Center,
and Nobumasa Akiyama, Assistant Professor, Hitotsubashi University. The
panel was moderated by Yuki Tatsumi, Senior Associate, East Asia
Program at the Stimson Center.

The panel discussion took place at the conclusion of an all-day workshop on Tuesday, March
24, 2009, 3:30pm-5:00pm at the Stimson Center, located 1111 19th Street
NW, 12th Floor, Washington, DC 20036.

Toward a Nuclear Free World:

US-Japan Dialogue among the Next Generation on Nuclear Disarmament and Nonproliferation

The panel discussion “Balancing Act –
Upholding the Legitimacy of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime,
Maintaining the Credibility of the Deterrence in the US-Japan Alliance”
was set against the backdrop of the renewed enthusiasm in the Obama
administration for the nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation of
weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). The foreign policy goals of the
United States and Japan in the area of nuclear disarmament and
nonproliferation show an unprecedented degree of convergence. However,
the past policy dialogue has not been very successful. The discussion
at the Henry L. Stimson Center focused on the opportunities and
challenges of the US-Japan nonproliferation dialogue. 

In
the beginning of the discussion Brian Finlay, Senior Associate at the
Stimson Center and the co-director of the Cooperative Nonproliferation
Program, outlined the past and present of the US nonproliferation
policy. He indicated that very little progress has been made in the
past 16 years, despite the presence of some successful small-scale
initiatives of WMD reduction. He drew numerous parallels between the
current policy of the Obama administration and the policies of the
onset of the Clinton presidency, indicating that not only issues,
opportunities, and challenges remain the same, but some of the
policy-makers on the Obama team worked in the Clinton administration.
He was thus concerned that the policies of the Obama administration
would remain the same, and similarly to the past nonproliferation
efforts would be insufficient to produce meaningful results. Mr. Finlay
further pointed out two characteristics of American public; not only it
relies excessively on nuclear security, it
also remains deeply divided over the issue. The multitude of opinions
in the constituencies makes the nonproliferation issue excessively
partisan and thus it is difficult to reach any meaningful consensus.
Mr. Finlay concluded that while the Obama administration had expressed
eagerness in handling the issue, partisan
politics will certainly interfere with the agenda.

The
discussion continued as Nobumasa Akiyama, Assistant Professor at
Hitotsubashi University, presented his views on the nuclear
nonproliferation question within the framework of the US-Japan security
alliance. He pointed out two major Japanese concerns over the effort of
reduction of US nuclear arms. First, Japan is concerned about China’s
reaction to the efforts. If the United States would decrease
its nuclear arms arsenal what would be the impact on the regional
nuclear regime? The main apprehension of the Japanese government is
whether the strategic stability can be maintained with the smaller
number of American nuclear weapons. Moreover, Japan needs a more
accurate perception of the Chinese nuclear arms arsenal, and, if a
US-Russian treaty on nuclear arms control were signed, Japan would like
to have a role.

The
second major concern for the Japanese is a nuclear North Korea. Japan
would like to see the nuclear threat eliminated as soon as possible,
and Dr. Akiyama pointed out that from the Japanese point of view the
American policy-makers have not demonstrated determination to eliminate
the North Korean threat as soon as possible. Mr. Akiyama also indicated
that just as American politics will influence American policies,
Japanese political reality will influence Japanese policies. It is
unclear whether the policy would change if a tranfer of power were to
happen  after the elections. The lack of political leadership in Japan
could frustrate their US interlocutors. Nobumasa Akiyama concluded that
for any global weapons regime to be successful, nuclear countries other
than the United States and Russia should have a sense of ownership over
the process of nuclear weapons reduction.

 

For further information, please email Yuki Tatsumi ([email protected]).

 

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