Okada hails new U.S. policy of limiting nukes

by Masami Ito

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada welcomed on Wednesday the new U.S. policy of limiting the use of atomic arms, calling it a big step toward a “world without nuclear weapons” but adding that other nuclear powers need to follow suit to make it effective.

“The U.S. has squarely recognized that it would not use nuclear arms on nonnuclear countries,” Okada said. “I welcome the review, which is in line with the Japanese government’s view and what we have been saying.”

The Nuclear Posture Review was released Tuesday by the administration of President Barack Obama, and is the first one since the 2002 review under then President George W. Bush. The 2010 report, which will drive nuclear policy for five to 10 years, renounces the use of nuclear strikes on nonnuclear countries that are in compliance with the Nonproliferation Treaty.

“The United States is now prepared to strengthen its long-standing ‘negative security assurance’ by declaring that the United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations,” the review says.

The review, however, does not rule out the U.S. being the first to launch a nuclear attack, something that Okada had called for. But on Wednesday, Okada expressed understanding, saying the U.S. has moved closer to a posture of pure deterrence, that is stating it won’t use its atomic arsenal unless it or an ally experiences a nuclear attack.

“As I have been saying, it is difficult to have (the U.S. declare it won’t) launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike,” Okada said. “The next step would be to ensure that nuclear powers aside from the U.S., like France and Russia, also take measures not to use nuclear weapons on nonnuclear countries.”

He added that the U.S. report will become more effective if a U.N. Security Council resolution or a treaty is adopted.

The review maintains the possibility of using nuclear weapons against Iran and North Korea, which are not in compliance with the NPT.

“North Korea is clearly outside the NPT and (can only) be regarded as a nuclear power,” Okada said. “I think that the U.S. clearly stated that if North Korea is afraid of a nuclear attack, it should destroy its nuclear arms and return to the NPT.”

The report was issued after the U.S. and Russia agreed last week to a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that would reduce deployed nuclear arsenals by 30 percent. Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are set to sign the treaty in Prague on Thursday. Washington is also hosting the Nuclear Security Summit next week.