A Model Northeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty

By Hiromichi Umebayashi

Fudan University, Shanghai, PRC   July 16 – 18, 2004


1. Introduction


China detonated its first nuclear bomb in October 1964. But three years later, Eisaku Sato, Prime Minister of Japan, introduced its three non-nuclear principles, principles not to manufacture, not to possess, nor to allow bringing-in nuclear weapons, for the first time in December 1967. Why did Japan close its nuclear option in the face of Chinese nuclear weapons? 


The answer is evident if we know what Mr. Sato introduced was not simply three non-nuclear principles, but was four pillars of nuclear policies with broader perspectives. The three non-nuclear principles was just one pillar of the four. The third pillar was the Japanfs dependence upon the US nuclear deterrence assured by the Japan-US Security Treaty. This is the way how Japan responded to regional threat at that time. In fact, Mr. Sato met US President Johnson in 1965 and asked him if the Japan-US Security Treaty could protect Japan against the nuclear attack upon Japan. Then Mr. Johnson responded that obviously he would protect Japan against any kind of attack.[1]


Exactly same thing happened recently. When the first six party talk on North Korea was approaching in two weeks, Masashi Nishihara, President, National Defense Academy of Japan, contributed an op-ed to the Washington Post in August 2003,[2] and wrote gWashington should not sign a pact stating that it has no intention of launching a nuclear attack on North Korea,h because it might eventually create circumstances that gTokyo could no longer rely on its alliance with Washington and thus might decide to develop its own retaliatory nuclear weapons.h According to a Kyodo News report from Washington DC,[3] by the time of that six party talk, the GOJ had requested the U.S. to preserve its nuclear deterrence against North Korea. Accordingly at a three party high level consultation at the end of September 2003, involving the U.S., Japan, and South Korea, the U.S. accepted Japanfs request and assured Japan that it would maintain its nuclear umbrella against North Korea even after the U.S. provided some sort of security assurance to North Korea.[4]


This framework of regional security that has been maintained in Japan for more than fifty years destine Japan only to two options both nuclear, to depend US nuclear deterrence or to arm itself with nuclear weapons. At the time of Chinese first nuclear test, Japanese anti-nuclear sentiment was much stronger than now, and the first option was a politically safer option for most conservative nationalists. But at the time of a hypothetical DPRK nuclear test, it might be too weak to resist against the movement of conservative nationalists who argue for independence of the US nuclear umbrella and for Japanfs own nuclear deterrent.


It is true that Northeast Asian regional security should be maintained primarily by players of the region. What is vitally needed is a third option for the North East Asian regional security arrangement that can address the security concerns of the region without relying upon the U.S. nuclear deterrence, while inducing any incentives for additional nuclear armament in the region. Obviously, the establishment of a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ) with appropriate negative security assurances is considered to be a thoughtful approach to such option.


2. Three plus Three Nations Arrangement


A number of substantial arguments about the configuration of a potential NWFZ in the Northeast Asia have appeared in the post-Cold War era. I have recounted the history of such developments in other publications[5] and I will just give the chronology of proposals on the arrangement of the NEA-NWFZ in the below.


Proposals for a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone


March 1995   Endicott, et al., Circular and Elliptic Limited Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (LNWFZ)[6]

1995          Andrew Mack, NWFZ involving the ROK, DPRK, Japan and Taiwan[7]

March 1996   Kumao Kaneko, Circular NWFZ[8]

May 1996      Hiromichi Umebayashi, Three Plus Three Nations Arrangement involving the ROK, DPRK, Japan[9]

October 1997  Endicott, et al., NEA League of Non-Nuclear States, involving the ROK, Japan and Mongolia as a Phase I formation of the NEA-LNWFZ[10]


The gThree plus Three Nations Arrangementh is considered to be a most realistic and fundamental arrangement for a NEA-NWFZ because it involves key three non-nuclear states of the region, namely the ROK, the DPRK and Japan, as the central players and three neighboring nuclear weapon states, namely the United States, China, and Russia, as supportive players of the arrangement. It is not an accidental coincidence that these six nations are the same with participants in the recent Six Party Talks on the nuclear issues of Korean Peninsula.


This approach could be pursued by taking advantage of the existing policies declared by the three non-nuclear states. Specifically, the ROK and the DPRK signed the gJoint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsulah in 1992, in which they agreed that they gshall refrain from the testing, manufacture, production, acceptance, possession, stockpiling, deployment and use of nuclear weapons,h and that they gshall use nuclear energy only for peaceful purposes.h In addition, Japan has the gthree non-nuclear principles,h which state that Japan will not manufacture, possess, nor allow the bringing-in of nuclear weapons. Also, the 1995 Atomic Energy Basic Law prohibits the use of nuclear energy for military purposes.


As for recent developments regarding the DPRKfs nuclear claims, it is to be noted that notwithstanding its withdrawal statement from the NPT, the DPRK has officially committed to remaining a non-nuclear weapon state, at least gat this stage.h Despite charges and countercharges, the official policy of the DPRK remains, at this time, that it is not a nuclear weapons state. In the DPRKfs statement regarding its withdrawal from the NPT, it reaffirms, gThough we pull out of the NPT, we have no intention to produce nuclear weapons and our nuclear activities at this stage will be confined only to peaceful purposes.h


3. Nuclear-Weapon-Free Korean Peninsula


Before we propose a Model NEA-NWFZ Treaty with Three plus Three Nations Arrangement, it will be meaningful to discuss about a Nuclear Weapon Free Korean Peninsula (NWFKP). In relation to the current nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula, there is an international consensus to make the Korean Peninsula nuclear weapon free. Of course this is a very desirable goal. However, I would like to emphasize there are critical differences between a NWFKP and a NEA-NWFZ from the viewpoint of the cooperative security framework of the region.


Firstly, a NWFKP cannot address a major source of tension in this region, namely tension between the Peoplefs Republic of China (PRC) and Japan. The Government of Japanfs (GOJ) concerns about the nuclear threat posed by the PRC have long history and are very serious as I wrote in Section1. Although the PRC has repeatedly declared unconditional negative security assurances to non-nuclear weapon states and no-first-use policy, the GOJ considers such pledges unreliable. In a NEA-NWFZ, Japan's concerns would be resolved by means of a legally binding NSA provided by the PRC. This will relieve Japan of a major threat and thereby ease the tension between Japan and China, which, in turn, will contribute to lessen U.S. military presence in the region.


Secondly, the general public in the ROK and the DPRK remain very cautious about Japanese behavior. According to opinion polls of the Korean Joong-Ang Ilbo, 82.3 % (in February 1999) and 81.9 % (in September 1996) of South Koreans think the ROK should keep the nuclear option open. Also in the poll in September 1996, when asked whether a reunified Korea should possess nuclear weapons as a means of precaution against major powers in Asia, 82.6% of Koreans replied gyes.h It may be safe to assume that in this context, Japan is interpreted as a gmajor power in Asia.h Considering that both Koreas are prohibited from possessing nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities under a NWFKP agreement, as stipulated in the 1992 Joint Declaration, while Japan is allowed to possess such facilities even though they are under safeguard of the IAEA, such a situation could not be stable. It is very probable that tension between Japan and Korean Peninsula would remain and even grow in the mean time. In this respect, it is important that the ROK, the DPRK and Japan are integrated into a single arrangement for mutual inspection, which is ensured in a NEA-NWFZ.


Thirdly, a NWFKP will not automatically provide an opportunity in which the ROK, the DPRK and Japan, key players of the cooperative security framework in the Northeast Asia, would meet and discuss security issues. Such meetings could lead to a further improvement of the security situation in the region. On the contrary, in the current international context leading to a NWFKP, the influence of the U.S. will remain significant in regional security issues and most probably, the region will not be immune to U.S. unilateralism. In a NEA-NWFZ, the treaty organization established to ensure treaty compliance would endow three non-nuclear states with status of central player in the regional security.


4. Features of the Model NEA-NWFZ Treaty


A Model NEA-NWFZ Treaty (gModel Treatyh in the below) and a Note for it are annexed to this paper. It has been prepared in hopes that it will serve as a provisional and tentative basis for future discussions and deliberations to be conducted by and among a large number of experts and concerned citizens. The following describe some of the characteristic aspects and unique feature of the Model Treaty.


(1)    Preamble

There are several unique points in the Preamble of the Model Treaty. It recalls that Northeast Asia is the only region of the entire world where nuclear weapons have been used in reality in war, and that there are a great number of atomic-bomb survivors even today who are living their lives in fear of anxiety and uncertainty in Japan as well as in the Korean Peninsula. Also it recalls many hardships caused by the wars of aggression and the colonial ruling by Imperialistic Japan and acknowledges that the pains are yet to be cured.


(2) A Six-Party Treaty with Three plus Three Structure

The Model Treaty is a six party treaty with a three plus three structure. Namely in the Model Treaty there are two categories of state parties; Intrazonal States (ROK, DPRK and Japan) and Neighboring Nuclear Weapon States (China, Russia and the U.S.). The NEA-NWFZ is composed of the territory of the former category of States. The two have different fundamental obligations, as stipulated in Article 3.


It is very much worth considering that we include Mongolia as an Intrazonal State. It would be important to deliberate carefully, based upon information and analysis, over possible merits and demerits, resulting from inclusion of Mongolia.


(3)    Obligation of Non-Dependence upon Nuclear Weapons for Intrazonal States

The Article 3, 1(c) is a provision not included in any other nuclear-weapon-free zone treaty. It means the Intrazonal States shall discard their dependence upon so-called gnuclear umbrellah in their security policies. Such provision has been included in this Treaty, considering that the States Parties to the NPT agreed to gdiminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policiesh in the final document adopted at the NPT Review Conference in 2000. Prohibiting the dependence on nuclear deterrence of nuclear weapon states may lead to a further relaxation of tension in the region.


(4) Negative Security Assurance in the body of the Model Treaty

A provision of negative security assurance (NSA) by nuclear weapon states, in other nuclear-weapon-free zones treaties, is generally included in their protocol to the treaties. Taking due account, however, of the profound depth of involvement of the three nuclear weapon states in this region in terms of security, it has been decided to be included in the body of the Treaty in this model. (Article 3, 2(a))


The inclusion of the NSA provision in the body of the Treaty is deemed advantageous as it may enhance the incentive to negotiate this Treaty on the part of North Korea and Japan as their feeling of security is to be increased due to the inclusion. However, on the other hand, it is deemed disadvantageous in that the U.S. may become more cautious to the conclusion of the Treaty.


(5) Port-call and Territorial Transit of Vessels and Aircraft Carrying Nuclear Weapons

The Article 3, 2(c) stipulates the obligation for the Neighboring Nuclear Weapon States in relation to the portcall and transit of vessels and aircraft carrying nuclear weapons. It is a prior consultation system: an embodiment of the actual procedure currently taken by the government of Japan. It should be deemed possible that such procedure be applied to all other Intrazonal States. There is allegation claiming the existence of secret accords, not requiring prior consultations, between the U.S. and Japan, which the government of Japan has been officially denying in a repetitious manner.


This provision may be removed from Article 3, 2, and then be put, as follows, under Article 3, 1(e), in a more conservative manner, as generally seen in other nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties:

Article 3, 1(e)

Each Intrazonal State in the exercise of its sovereign rights remains free to decide for itself whether to allow visits by foreign ships and aircraft to its ports and airfields, transit of its airspace by foreign aircraft, and navigation by foreign ships in its territorial sea in a manner not covered by the rights of innocent passage or transit passage of straits.


To the contrary, stricter provisions may be adopted in place of the current provision of Article 3, 2(c), including (i) to ban both partcall and transit, or (ii) to ban portcall and to obligate prior consultation for transit. In either case, such option would make some Neighboring Nuclear Weapon States much more difficult to sign the treaty.


(6) Energy Disparity

The Article 4, 4 aims to address a significant problem how a Northeast Asia NWFZ Treaty will solve the disparity, in terms of energy supply, that is derived from the fact that the 1992 South and North Joint Declaration on Denuclearization of Korean Peninsula takes an advanced position for both states not to possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities, while Japan has already deeply involved in energy activities using such facilities. A concrete agreement on this issue will need vast amount of deliberations and negotiations among concerned states, probably far beyond the reach of this Model Treaty. In this Model Treaty, the obligation for future cooperation to solve this problem is stipulated.


(7) Application to the U.S. Military Bases

There are major U.S. military bases in Japan and the ROK. Naturally they are not exempted from obligations posed upon the Intrazonal States (Article 2, 4). It will bring about unique verification challenge, which is yet to be studied in this Model Treaty.


(8) Obligation of Education

The Article 3, 1(d) is a unique provision for Intrazonal States to be stipulated to exert effort for the diffusion of education worldwide for nuclear disarmament, including the transmission to the present and future generations of the knowledge about the damage inflicted on the humanity and cities by the atomic bombs dropped in 1945.


[1] Diet Minutes, 57th, Standing Committee on Budget, House of Representatives, Dec. 11, 1967

[2] Masashi Nishihara: gNorth Koreafs Trojan Horse,h The Washington Post, Aug. 14, 2003

[3] The Kanagawa Shimbun, Oct. 31, 2003

[4] The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 20, 2003

[5] Hiromichi Umebayashi, gA Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone,h Peace Depot & Pacific Campaign for Disarmament and Security Briefing Paper, April 2004

[6] John E. Endicott & Alan G. Gorowitz, "Track II Cooperative Regional Security Efforts: Lessons from the Limited Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone for Northeast Asia," Pacifica Review, Volume 11 #3, October 1999

[7] Andrew Mack, "A Northeast Asia Nuclear-Free Zone: Problems and Prospects," Chapter 11 of Nuclear Policies in Northeast Asia, UMDIRI95I16, United Nations, 1995

[8] Kumao Kaneko, "Japan Needs No Umbrella," Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, March/April 1996

[9] Hiro Umebayashi, "A Northeast Asia NWFZ: A Realistic and Attainable Goal," presented at INESAP Conference, Gothenburg, Sweden, May 30-June 2, 1996 and published in INESAP Information Bulletin, No.10, August 1996. Also, "Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone: Impact of the South Asian Nuclear Weapons Tests," presented at the Alternative Security Conference, Manila, Philippines, July 22-24, 1998

[10] "The Moscow Memorandum," Moscow, Russia, 11 October 1997. The text in its entirety can be found in the document cited in note 6.