Look at root causes of nuclear quest: ElBaradei

by Reiji Yoshida

North Korea’s Oct. 9 atomic test was a “a clear setback” for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime but the international community should try to address the problem by looking at why countries want nuclear weapons, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Friday.

“Countries try to develop nuclear weapons because they sometimes feel insecure, they sometimes feel threatened and they sometimes feel that nuclear weapons will bring some power and prestige,” Director General Mohamed ElBaradei told a news conference at the Japan National Press Club.

“We need to work on all these motivations,” ElBaradei said, adding that sanctions were not a long-term remedy to prevent nuclear proliferation.

ElBaradei, corecipient of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize with the IAEA, said his agency had not been given any details of the six-party talks to denuclearize the North, but the agency is ready to go back to the country to conduct inspections if an agreement is reached.

“Our people are making themselves ready,” ElBaradei said.

He defended the recent U.S.-India agreement on nuclear technology cooperation, in which the U.S. gave de facto backing for India’s nuclear weapons program.

ElBaradei said he supported the bilateral deal because it will have many benefits, including that it will bring 14 of 22 Indian reactors under the control of IAEA monitoring. India is not a signatory to the NPT.

“We need to adopt, in my view, a pragmatic approach,” the IAEA chief said. “And a pragmatic approach is that we need to engage everybody.”

ElBaradei arrived in Tokyo Wednesday for six days of meetings with government officials. Foreign Minister Taro Aso met with him Thursday and the two men spoke about the nuclear aspirations of North Korea and Iran.

Asked if he believes Japan will not develop nuclear weapons, ElBaradei said all the government officials he met in Japan assured him of that fact.

“I cannot obviously speak for Japan, but I have been assured by government officials that Japan has no intention of abandoning its nonnuclear policy,” he said.