Foreign Minister Taro Aso said Wednesday he is worried the civilian nuclear-cooperation deal between the United States and India could undermine the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Aso told a House of Councilors panel he was “most concerned about (the NPT) losing substance” due to the accord struck earlier this month between the U.S. and India. The U.S. has signed the international treaty and India has not.

“I told U.S. Secretary of State (Condoleezza) Rice during our talks that Japan, even if asked by the United States to support it, could not oblige easily, as this would definitely be a double standard,” he said, referring to his meeting with Rice on Saturday in Australia.

Aso said the India-U.S. pact could adversely affect the North Korean and Iranian nuclear standoffs. Neither of those two countries has signed the NPT.

He was speaking before the Upper House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense in response to questions from Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Kazuya Shinba.

Under the NPT, nations with nuclear arms must not transfer atomic weapons or technology to any nonnuclear-weapons state.

The foreign minister, however, praised India’s decision to follow the International Atomic Energy Agency’s safeguards in its civilian nuclear program.

“It is a good thing that those (nations) subject to the IAEA (regulations) will increase,” he said, calling it a “step forward to nonproliferation.”

Japan hits Belarus poll

Japan on Wednesday criticized Sunday’s presidential election in Belarus for being undemocratic, following the line of the European Union and the United States.

“Our country regrets that there were many actions contradicting the principle of a democratic election that were observed in this election,” Yoshinori Katori, the Foreign Ministry’s press secretary, said in a news conference.

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