World expects Japan to do more to extend cluster bomb ban (Japan)

Japan's Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone, center, attends the signing ceremony of a treaty banning the use of cluster bombs in Oslo, Norway, on Dec. 3. (AP)


"Honestly, we are happy that Japan signed the agreement," said a top official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Dec. 4, still somewhat surprised that over 90 nations altogether signed the treaty banning cluster bombs. The official seems relieved that Japan was not late in riding the international tide.

In February 2007, Norway and voluntary nations, along with non-governmental organizations, adopted the Oslo Declaration seeking conclusion of a treaty by the end of 2008. Treaty negotiations sped up and the treaty was signed after a mere year and 10 months.

Japan had earlier remained undecided on the pact and drew criticism. Then this May, the government moved toward signing the treaty, following the "wish" of then Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda to embrace the international tendency towards prohibition. After that, the government switched its attitude to a proactive stance. They decided to literally "abandon all" cluster bombs, not only abandoning four types of existing cluster bombs, but also passing on introducing the "newest" cluster bomb made by Germany and France that was exempt from the regulation.

Incumbent Prime Minister Taro Aso hailed the signing as "historical." The government also shows strong ambitions on getting together with other nations to encourage the United States, China and Russia to sign it.

The government was able to switch to such a confident attitude as the pending problem of the Japan-U.S. coalition was settled. In the negotiations for the treaty, "the final line" for compromise was not to obstruct the use of cluster bombs by the U.S. A clause stating acceptance of a joint military operation with non-signatories was included by the "tough advocacy" of Japan, according to a top MOFA official. The unpleasant reality is that Japan is encouraging the U.S. to join the pact while helping it slip through the net.

"For Norway, Japan is a potent partner in disarmament and nonproliferation," said Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store as he bestowed unexpected praise on Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone when they met in Oslo before the signing. The hidden agenda appears to call Japan into this new system by concerned governments and civil society working together on their own to promote elimination of problematic weapons without depending on the conventional frame of arms control. Yet Japanese MOFA officials do not seem to be getting the message. The world has a deep-seated desire for Japan to depart from its defensive attitude and work positively in the global arena for arms control.

Von: 10.12.2008, By Mayumi Otani and Yukihiko Machida, Mainichi Shimbun,

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