About 100 countries, including Japan, signed a treaty Dec. 3 in Oslo to ban cluster bombs. It goes into effect about six months after 30 countries have ratified it. Japan should start the ratification procedure as soon as possible.
Bomblets clustered into bombs are scattered over vast areas and often fail to explode immediately. They can explode a long time after military conflicts, killing and injuring civilians. A 2006 study by the nongovernmental organization Handicap International covering 24 countries says cluster bombs killed or maimed some 11,000 people over three decades and that 98 percent of them were civilians and about 27 percent children.
The treaty bans use, development, production, procurement, stockpiling and transfer of cluster bombs. Signatories have agreed to dispose of existing stockpiles within eight years and to support activities designed to remove dud bomblets and help victims.
New types of cluster bombs, each containing less than 10 bomblets and containing self-destruction devices, are outside the treaty’s scope. The United States, Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan are not parties to the treaty.
Cluster bombs were used in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Chechnya conflict and the 2006 Lebanon war. But 18 of the 26 NATO member countries, including Britain, France and Germany, have signed the treaty.
It is important that signatories to the treaty sway global opinion against cluster bombs. Doing so will create an environment in which nonsignatory countries find it difficult to use the indiscriminate weapon.
The treaty allows signatory countries to have military cooperation with nonsignatory countries. This provision prompted Japan, which has a security treaty with the U.S., to sign the treaty. Japan plans to introduce precision-guided weapons to replace its more than 8,000 cluster bombs.
Japan should ask the U.S. to remove such weapons from its arsenal in Japan. It also should vigorously support removal of dud bomblets and help victims as it has been doing in the case of antipersonnel mines.
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