Japanese-German Dialogue on Non-Proliferation: Strengthening Multilateral and Regional Security Cooperation

This is an archived article

March 31, 2010
By Kentaro Ide
The Japanese-German Center Berlin (JDZB) and the Heinrich Böll Foundation, in cooperation with the Center for the Promotion of Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (CPDNP) at the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA), held an experts conference in Tokyo, Japan on March 8, 2010. Throughout the day, over 20 researchers, parliamentarians, diplomats and other specialists from both Germany and Japan participated in the morning and afternoon sessions.

After opening remarks from Ralf Fücks, President of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, Wolfgang Brenn, Head of Project Management at JDZB, and Ambassador Nobuyasu Abe, Director of the CPDNP, Ambassador Volker Stanzel of the Embassy of Germany in Japan gave a keynote speech, warning that global efforts toward arms control faced new threats, including politically and economically marginalized states seeking conventional and nuclear arms, as well as the rising powers of China and India. With the US and President Barack Obama leading the resurgence in interest in arms control issues, Stanzel asked what specific tools and proposals countries such as Germany and Japan could put forward.

The first session focused on common approaches to strengthen the non-proliferation treaty (NPT), especially ahead of the NPT Review Conference to be held in May. Tetsuro Fukuyama, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Japan, began by highlighting recent calls by the foreign ministers of Japan and Germany for increased bilateral cooperation. Japan hopes that the US and Russia will exercise leadership in the field of nuclear disarmament and calls for an early conclusion of a START follow-on treaty, as well as the entry into force of the CTBT and conclusion of the FMCT. Japan also finds proposals for negative security assurances and sole-purpose declarations “worthy of consideration.”

Oliver Meier (Arms Control Association) suggested that Japan and Germany, as important US allies under the US nuclear umbrella, deemphasize the role of nuclear weapons in their security policies. Specifically, Meier proposed that the two countries declare deterrence of other nuclear weapon states as the sole purpose of nuclear weapons and advocate the inclusion of tactical weapons in future rounds of arms control talks. In addition, joint initiatives to globally prohibit the deployment of nuclear weapons in non-nuclear states, such as Germany and other NATO members, could prevent NATO nuclear sharing from becoming a global precedent.

Next, Ralf Fücks highlighted the increasing risk of proliferation in the current global “renaissance” of nuclear energy. Citing the case of Iran’s nuclear program as an example of the risks of dual use and the ability of potential proliferators to hide facilities from international inspectors, Fücks argued that the costs and risks of nuclear energy, compounded by the unresolved issue of how to deal with nuclear waste, outweighed the benefits, especially in view of the potential for alternative energy.

Nobumasa Akiyama (Hitotsubashi University) discussed similar issues as Meier, focusing on the report of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND) published in December 2009. The report calls for the adoption of sole-purpose declarations and no-first-use declarations, unequivocal negative security assurances, and a global maximum of 2,000 warheads by 2025. Akiyama proposed the creation of a UN nuclear arms register covering not only arms transfers but also arsenal sizes and doctrines. Such a register would be part of efforts to engage China and non-NPT nuclear states in a forum outside the NPT, which faces deep divisions over issues such as the “inalienable right” to develop nuclear energy under Article IV of the treaty.

Subsequent discussions focused on establishing credibility for declaratory policies, the right to nuclear energy under Article IV of the NPT, and the potential role for regional security arrangements. Participants agreed that sole-purpose declarations could serve as an important confidence-building measure, but some, including Ambassador Tetsuya Endo, indicated the need for exceptions to such declarations in the face of certain threats. General Klaus Naumann doubted that no-first-use declarations issued by one state would be considered credible by others and argued against introducing concepts that cannot be verified.

Meier countered that exceptions would render any sole-purpose declaration meaningless and suggested that declaratory policies by some states, such as the US, would be credible and therefore useful for influencing the nuclear policies of others. Rolf Mützenich, MP for the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and spokesperson for arms control and non-proliferation, argued that a no-first-use policy, for example, would help demonstrate the purely defensive nature of missile defense systems. Gudrun Wacker spoke against dividing states between “credible” and “non-credible” states. She asked who would have the legitimacy to decide? Naumann suggested force postures as one indicator of the credibility of declarative policies.

Participants agreed that another challenge for the upcoming NPT Review Conference was the need to balance proliferation concerns with the inalienable right of all signatories to develop nuclear energy. Specifically, the Iranian nuclear issue has seen many developing countries siding with Iran in order to protect their own nuclear rights. Fücks repeated his earlier position and argued that nuclear energy development, particularly among unstable and non-democratic regimes, would undermine non-proliferation efforts. Stanzel responded by stating that efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program were based on well-founded suspicions and were not designed to limit global access to certain technologies.

Stanzel continued by saying that while the NPT may function as an important norm-setting institution, regional institutions may be required in order to promote global nuclear disarmament. With several participants alluding to the complicated balance of powers in Northeast Asia, Ambassador Abe suggested that European models of multilateral security could provide lessons for Japan’s regional policy.

The second session, focusing on regional challenges to the NPT regime, began with a keynote speech by General Klaus Naumann, who spoke of both Germany and Japan as having a moral right to lead proactive efforts toward arms control. Highlighting the recommendations of the ICNND, for which he serves as a commissioner, Naumann declared that a nuclear-free world was possible but would require leadership from the US and Russia as well as other nuclear weapon states. However, failure to resolve the Iranian and North Korean nuclear issues could derail any such processes, and China holds the key to success in both cases.

Hideo Hiraoka, Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) Nuclear Disarmament Group, described the DPJ’s proposals for a Northeast Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ). In the proposed “three plus three nations arrangement”, South Korea, North Korea and Japan (the “Intrazonal States”) would eliminate all dependence on nuclear explosives while China, Russia and the US (the “Neighboring Nuclear Weapon States”) would pledge not to use or threaten the use of nuclear explosives in the region. Parliamentarians from Japan and South Korea believe that efforts toward a Northeast Asian NWFZ will stimulate the six-party talks with North Korea and help alleviate regional tensions.

Gudrun Wacker (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik) argued that North Korean leaders are unlikely to relinquish their nuclear weapons, their “only bargaining chip”, in the near future. Pyongyang’s primary goal of regime survival cannot be assured through security guarantees or economic incentives, and the government’s diplomatic options are limited to extracting concessions while avoiding forced regime change. Wacker also pointed out that North Korea is isolated from regional security arrangements and said that negotiations, including the DPJ’s proposed approach, while unlikely to go far in the short term, would remain a useful means of damage control. Tadashi Inuzuka, MP (DPJ), pointed to growing channels of communication between Japan and South Korea on nuclear issues and indicated that Japan’s lack of military power made US involvement in negotiations with North Korea essential.

Fumihiko Yoshida (Asahi Shimbun) spoke on ways to strengthen NPT compliance and enforcement, particularly on the Iranian nuclear issue, suggesting that the failure to declare nuclear material be defined as the standard of proof (the “smoking gun”) for determining non-compliance. Yoshida also argued that withdrawal from the NPT under Article X should not be unconditional, reiterating the ICNND’s recommendations that safeguards continue to apply after withdrawal and that the UN Security Council consider any such withdrawal a prima facie threat to international peace and security.

Rolf Mützenich called for greater German and European involvement in nuclear disarmament issues. Europe’s experience in building regional security communities could help Asia build upon existing structures such as ASEAN. Responding to Wacker’s doubt that Europe had much to contribute to negotiations with North Korea, Mützenich maintained that the EU had an interest, if not the influence, to help forge a solution. At the same time, Japan, with its commercial relations with Iran, could play a strong part in calling for more transparency in Iran’s nuclear program.

In open discussions, participants focused on how to engage North Korea and strengthen NPT enforcement and compliance. Regarding Yoshida’s proposed standard of proof for determining non-compliance, in addition to nuclear materials, which are available in the black market, Ambassador Takaya Suto suggested including undeclared facilities, warhead miniaturization studies, and re-entry and high-explosive tests. Despite Iranian arguments that compliance should be determined by inspectors rather than the IAEA Board of Governors, Meier argued that unlike verification, the determination of compliance would remain a political process.

On the North Korean issue, Ambassador Tetsuya Endo, former ambassador in charge of Japan-North Korea normalization talks, said that the six-party talks were still the most promising option and called for united efforts not only to pressure North Korea but also to convince China to take a tougher stance. Ambassador Abe expressed hope that North Korea, already losing its ability to threaten regional stability in the face of strategies of containment and deterrence, might some day be convinced to denuclearize in exchange for economic assistance.

General Naumann asserted that contrary to Iranian and North Korean expectations, nuclear weapons do not enhance security unless a state has a second-strike capability and the ability to absorb a nuclear strike. Participants agreed that unlike the North Korean case, a military strike against Iran, specifically by Israel, remained a possibility. Yoshida mentioned the need to address Israel’s nuclear arsenal and its significance in the Iranian nuclear issue. The Iranian case also raised concerns for the upcoming NPT Review Conference, and Meier noted the need to address the possibility of Iran preventing a consensus agreement.

In contrast to statements on the importance of engaging North Korea in regional security arrangements, discussion on Iran focused on the efficacy of sanctions. Although sanctions have failed to change the Iranian regime’s policies, Fücks suggested that they could be useful for changing the domestic balance of power in favor of more moderate elements. Mützenich added that sanctions also provided opportunities for world powers to act together, and Wacker questioned the assumption that China would unilaterally block sanctions efforts.

The session closed with Marc Berthold (Heinrich Böll Foundation), chair of the afternoon session, thanking the participants for their time and calling for further dialogue at the public panel discussion scheduled for the following day.

Japanese-German Dialogue on Non-Proliferation, March 2010 / Japanisch-deutscher Dialog zur Non-Proliferation, März 2010