• Kyodo

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Japan, Canada and the European Union should put up money to help dismantle Russia’s nuclear arsenal, Howard Baker, President George W. Bush’s choice as the next ambassador to Japan, said Wednesday.

In a congressional hearing, Baker said Bush should press these governments to assume “a fair share of the costs of these efforts that will enhance the security of these countries as much as that of the U.S. and Russia.”

Baker heads a task force created by the Energy Department to help dispose of a huge amount of nuclear weapons and weapons-grade materials that could fall into the hands of terrorists and hostile nations since the demise of the Soviet Union.

“This Cold War arsenal is spread across 11 time zones but lacks the Cold War infrastructure that provided the control and financing necessary to assure that chains of command remain intact and nuclear weapons and materials remain securely beyond the reach of terrorists and weapons-proliferating states,” Baker said.

“But our task force concludes that the current budget levels are inadequate,” he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

A program to neutralize all nuclear weapons materials in Russia would cost up to $30 billion over the next eight to 10 years, and Russia should make a significant contribution commensurate with its financial ability, Baker said.

But contributions from Japan, Canada and the EU “could significantly reduce U.S. costs,” he said.

After a congressional hearing, Baker told reporters that he is looking forward to going to Japan and that assuming the ambassador post will mark “a new chapter” for him and his wife.

Baker said that that he and his wife, Nancy, are excited about going to Japan. Baker, 75, said he has many friends in Japan and he likes Japan’s culture, food and the country itself.

However, he declined to answer questions regarding relations between the two countries, saying he would not comment on policy until the Senate confirms his nomination.

Bush nominated Baker earlier this week as successor to Thomas Foley.

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