Friday, May 8, 2009

The importance of being Frank with Japan

Vice President of the Cohen Group and longtime senior U.S. official with responsibility for nuclear weapons policy, serving in the U.S. National Security Council and Office of the Secretary of Defense, Frank Miller spoke this morning to the Congressional Breakfast Series sponsored by the National Defense University Foundation and the National Defense Industrial Association.

Mr. Miller made many interesting, important, and thoughtful comments on the future direction of U.S. nuclear weapons policy. One of his more predictable comments was that:
“our friends and our allies will continue to look to us to provide a nuclear umbrella, and if we don’t some if not many of them will build their own nuclear weapons.”
This argument has long struck the Nukes on a Blog team as too open-ended. Never having heard clarity about the specific circumstances or U.S. actions that might lead U.S. allies to reconsider their nonproliferation commitments, we are unable to imagine productive debate about how such dangerous circumstances might be avoided or mitigated in the context of prudent efforts toward nuclear disarmament in compliance with our shared obligations to Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the political requirements of stable nuclear nonproliferation more broadly. Nukes on a Blog recidivists will recall that Leonor questioned the requirements of extended deterrence and their relationship to allied nuclear proliferation with Mr. Miller in October 2007, with less than fully satisfying results.

The Japanese case is one of a small number at the center of this topic. Professor Michael Mochizuki sheds interesting light on the Japanese nonproliferation commitment in a July 2007 article for The Nonproliferation Review. Ploughshares Fund President Joseph Cirincione recently shared his concern with a capacity audience at the Elliott School of International Affairs that this argument could be used to block movement toward further deep cuts in U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals:
“you should watch this debate…this is one of the new arguments for doing nothing…I think it’s nonsense; I think there are some Japanese officials using this for their own purposes and I don’t think it’s true.”
These arguments suggest to us that there are multiple important and interrelated factors that bear on the nonproliferation commitments of U.S. allies, particularly including Japan; that a careful understanding of the conditions necessary for the stability of these commitments must be part of any effective strategy to prevent nuclear proliferation globally; and that the emerging historic opportunity to make prudent and effective progress toward the abolition of nuclear weapons suggest that greater and more inclusive consideration of these topics is urgently needed in dialog with our allies -- again particularly including Japan.

We are pleased to discover seeming agreement with Mr. Miller on needed next steps in this regard, as he explained today:
“We need to work with the Japanese Government and open up a very rich dialogue with the Japanese Government…”
like that we have had with our European allies about the requirements of extended deterrence;

“that is a dialogue that is desperately needed.”

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