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2010年11月23日 (火)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 22
EDITORIAL: Nuclear disarmament

As U.S. President Barack Obama seeks to embark upon a path toward a "world without nuclear weapons," the U.S. Senate is blocking the way toward his first nuclear disarmament treaty.

This is the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty signed by the United States and Russia in April. The pact aims to reduce strategic nuclear warheads to no more than 1,550 each. Ratification requires Senate approval.

As was clearly evident in the midterm elections earlier this month, U.S. politics has become increasingly partisan. Some within the Republican Party are opposing the treaty just for the sake of bringing down Obama. For a legislative body that is supposed to make decisions from a broader perspective, the Senate has become quite a petty place.

As Senator Dick Lugar, a Republican supporter of the treaty, says, this is a matter of American national security, as well as a matter of global security. We hope the Senate will display what is supposed to be its inherent wisdom.

A treaty needs a two-thirds majority in the Senate to be ratified. This means the administration needs not only support from Democrats, but also Republicans. As a result of the midterm elections, Democrats will have fewer Senate seats in the new Congress session starting in January. Calling it a top diplomatic priority, Obama seeks to have the treaty ratified within this year, using the current Democratic majority.

If he fails, years could go by without any mutual verification of nuclear disarmament between the United States and Russia. There is a risk that the years spent since the days of the Cold War, dealing with each other on disarmament and building trust, may take a big step backward.

To win votes, Obama has responded to Republican requests to put federal money in renewing nuclear arms laboratories and refurbishing nuclear missile bases, drawing fire for ''pork-barrel" policies. If Republican legislators are going to criticize the national deficit, they should seriously consider cutting back the budget through nuclear disarmament.

The president also should not simply coax the Senate into ratification through political haggling, but should repeatedly emphasize the importance of the treaty through speeches to the public.

Once he solidifies public support, he can expect a sea change in the attitudes of the Republican senators.

This new nuclear arms reduction treaty is an important step toward creating a disarmament dialogue with other nuclear powers, not just the United States and Russia. We hope President Obama will take on the task with full force, even at the risk of using up his political capital, so that his vision of a "world without nuclear weapons" does not quickly turn into an illusion.

Russia will have many decommissioned nuclear missiles on its hands in future years. If the treaty fails to come into force, then Russia will have to spend money building new nuclear missiles to replace the old ones. Russia also must avoid a return to the nuclear Cold War situation.

Moscow is also having a hard time getting the treaty ratified due to concerns over missile defense, but it needs to make a decision soon.

If the U.S.-Russia nuclear disarmament process should stall, then this could lead to a vicious cycle with China and India enhancing their nuclear arsenals. Therefore, this is indeed a matter of Japan's national security and Asian security. Japan should urge both the United States and Russia in no uncertain terms to have the treaty come into force.

It is still not too late. Prime Minister Naoto Kan should relay to the American and Russian leaders once again how important this treaty is for Japan as well.


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