An international treaty to ban the use and stockpiling of cluster bombs entered into force Aug. 1. Cluster bombs are ghastly weapons. They are air-dropped or ground-launched and eject a number of small bomblets. Many fail to explode on impact and continue to kill or maim civilians — especially children who mistake them for toys — long after conflicts have ended. Cluster bombs were first used in World War II, and have been used in most wars since, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions has been adopted by 108 countries, and so far, 38 countries, including Japan, have ratified it. The treaty bans the use, development, production, procurement, stockpiling and transfer of cluster bombs. Parties to the treaty have to dispose of their stockpiles within eight years and to support activities to remove unexploded bomblets and help victims. But the treaty does not cover cluster munitions that have less than 10 bomblets and are equipped with self-destruction devices.
Among those countries that have not signed the treaty are the United States, Russia, China, Israel, Pakistan, India and both Koreas. The U.S. alone is said to have 700 million bomblets. Efforts must continue to get more countries onboard. As the signatory list grows, so will the stigma attached to these horrific weapons — hopefully affecting the policies of nonsignatory nations.
The treaty has a clause allowing signatory countries to continue to cooperate militarily with nonsignatory countries. This prompted Japan, which has a security treaty with the U.S., to sign the treaty. In accordance with the spirit of the treaty, Japan should consider requesting that the U.S. neither bring cluster bombs into Japan nor use them to defend Japan in the event of war.
In a praiseworthy move, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and Mizuho Financial Group Inc. as well as Daiwa Asset Management Corp. have decided not to invest in or extend loans to businesses that could be involved in the production of cluster bombs. The government should also consider banning such investment and loans.