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Shenfs Comments on the Model NEA-NWFZ Treaty

Dingli Shen is the Executive Dean of the Institute of the International Studies and Deputy Director of Center for American Studies, Fudan University.


A Chinese Perspective on Model Northeast Asia NWFZ Treaty


Dingli Shen
Fudan University

July 18, 2004

Northeast Asia is an area where a number of nuclear weapons states and nuclear weapons aspiring states are situated. In terms of nuclear weapons states, Russia and China are the two nuclear powers in the region. The United States, despite the fact that it is not geographically a part of it, has military alliances with two states in the region and cannot be excluded when nuclear arms control and disarmament in Northeast Asia is addressed. Japan and South Korea have substantial civilian nuclear program and both depend on the US extended nuclear deterrence. South Korea has once thought to develop its own military nuclear program. Although Japan has three non-nuclear principles, Japanese government has decided, since late 1960s, to acquire near-nuclear-weapons capability and apparently has achieved this purpose. Furthermore, North Korea has embarked on a course of nuclear weapons development that is both a response to the threat it has perceived and a threat that other regional states would feel. It is also noted that Taiwan, a part of China, used to develop nuclear arms when it felt the US would reduce security commitment to it and to the region about thirty years ago.

Given this backdrop, a regional nuclear weapons free zone for Northeast Asia has been conceived for Northeast Asia. The concept of gLimited Nuclear Weapon-Free Zoneh, proposed by John Endicott of Georgia Institute of Technology, among others, has gained particular attention for the past decade. However, these types of proposals, no matter for a circular or an elliptic-shaped zone area, have not received acceptance among nuclear weapons states in the region, as the proposed zone would include part of these nuclear weapons states, and require the nuclear weapons states possibly redeploy their nuclear forces on their territories. Technically, it is not impossible for nuclear weapons states to do so. Militarily, however, such redeployment, by allowing making part of the nuclear weapons states nuclear weapons free, is not very meaningful, as the nuclear capability can still be delivered from other parts of these countries. Politically, such proposals seem not possible for nuclear weapons states to accept, as they tend not to accept restriction on the sovereign freedom of their weapons deployment.

This Model Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty, proposed by Hiromichi Umebayashi, has four features that distinguish itself from other Northeast Asian nuclear weapons free zone proposal. Basically, the Model Treaty is a good combination of idealism and pragmatism, based on the current reality of Northeast Asia.

First, the Model Treaty has noticed the issue of political acceptability by neighboring nuclear weapons states. By applying this proposed Zone only to Japan and the two Koreas, this scheme has avoided the difficulty of geographic scope involving nuclear weapons states in the region, and can thus help promote this proposal to be embraced by Russia and China, and the United States.

Second, the Model Treaty, likes all other regional nuclear weapons free zone treaties, has required member states gnot to conduct research on, develop, test, manufacture, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, deploy or use any nuclear explosive devices by any means, anywhere inside or outside the zoneh (Article 3.1(a)). It merits particular attention that his Model Treaty has further proposed to relinquish dependence on nuclear weapons. Importantly, Article 3.1.(c) of the Model Treaty stipulates that member states should geliminate all dependence whatsoever on any nuclear weapons or any other nuclear explosive device in all aspects of its security policyh. This has special relevance to this gzoneh, as Japan and South Korea have military alliance with the US and depend on American nuclear protection. This Treaty has not only mandated all intrazonal states not to engage in any efforts related to acquiring nuclear weapons, it also has asked them not to seek or to accept nuclear umbrella from nuclear weapons states. Such requirement, nevertheless, has not been demanded by NPT treaty.

If the three intrazonal states can accept this proposed Treaty, the nuclear umbrella between Washington and Tokyo as well as Seoul has to be closed (though not for the conventional umbrella part). This shall be a major progress of nuclear nonproliferation in Northeast Asia, though I am not very optimistic of the current Japanese governmentfs attitude of accepting it. In addition, when the DPRKfs nuclear issue is going on, this proposal of a Model Treaty may be difficulty to be accepted by South Korean government alone. Seoul may contemplate a nuclear weapons free Peninsula instead. In fact, ROK and DPRK signed in January 1992 a Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Third, its current shape of making this zone possibly accessible by nuclear-weapons carrying vehicles seems not restrictive enough. Article 3.2(c) states that each neighboring nuclear weapons state shall gnotify in advance and to have a prior consultation for approval with the concerned Intrazonal States when a Neighboring Nuclear Weapon State wants its ships or aircraft carrying any nuclear explosive devices to visit any ports or airfields located inside Intrazonal States, to transit their territorial airspace, or to navigate territorial seas in a manner not covered by the rights of innocent passage or transit passage of straits. Each Intrazonal State, in the exercise of its sovereign rights, shall remain free to decide to give approval or not after consultation.h

This statement perhaps has considered the acceptability of the Model Treaty by Japanese and American governments. It actually, however, leaves loophole that would allow port calls of nuclear weapons carrying vessels, though a true regional nuclear weapons free zone shall ban the existence of any type of nuclear weapons. Therefore, it is desirable to strengthen the clause though it will then raise the level of difficulty for Model Treaty to be accepted by Tokyo and Washington. But even without strengthening the clause, the US will still feel difficult to declare the status of its naval vessels and aircraft concerning if they carry nuclear weapons ? the US carries a neither-confirm-nor-deny policy for its navy fleets ? the reason that breaks US-New Zealand alliance relationship.

Fourth, regarding the decision making of the Commission and Executive Committee of the Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, the Model Treaty proposed gconsensus, or failing consensus, by consensus of all but one Contracting States Partiesh. Since Contracting States Parties are those states that have deposited the instrument of ratification, such decision making would allow and demand all neighboring nuclear weapons states to be involved, differing all other regional nuclear weapons states free zone treaties. For others, nuclear weapons states are expected to respect the existence of the zone, but not expect to play a role in assuring the status of the zone. In so drafting, neighboring nuclear weapons states are to play their respective role in facilitating the purpose of the Treaty, while giving them certain rights to block an action should more than one neighboring nuclear weapons state would disagree (but not allow any single member to veto).

In sum, this Model Treaty tries to strike a delicate balance of political acceptability of the Treaty by both gIntrazonal Statesh, and gNeighboring Nuclear Weapon Statesh. While insisting on the concept of nuclear weapons free zone for Northeast Asia, the Model Treaty tries best to win the support of states of both categories. By demanding the abandoning of dependence on nuclear weapons, it actually demands the closing of nuclear deterrence part of US-Japan and US-ROK military alliance. By defining the zone to within Japan and two Koreas proper, the Model Treaty tries to simply the question. And by leaving the possibility of port calls of nuclear weapons carrying platforms open, the Treaty tries not to disallow access of whatsoever US military platforms to this zone (though this author feels it too weak to make a zone). With various measures, this Model Treaty is a breakthrough of advancing an idealistic while pragmatic nuclear weapons free zone of Northeast Asia.




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