Japan calls for stricter nuclear-related export controls in Asia

Japan unveiled a fresh initiative Monday in promoting nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, urging other Asian nations to strengthen their export controls to prevent countries such as North Korea and Iran from acquiring nuclear-related materials.

"It is becoming more important for Asian countries to strengthen export control systems amid growing risks that countries with insufficient export controls may be used by North Korea and Iran as a 'loophole' to procure nuclear-related materials," Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said in a speech in Nagasaki, southwestern Japan.

Kishida announced that Japan will extend $455,000 to the preparatory commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty to support its activities, including the upgrading of the system for detecting nuclear tests.

Referring to Japan's chairmanship of the commission this year, Kishida said Japan will "proactively contribute to promoting the effectuation of the CTBT and developing the verification system."

Kishida unveiled the initiative in the run-up to a meeting in April in Hiroshima of foreign ministers from non-nuclear powers to promote disarmament and nonproliferation.

The minister pointed to the danger that nuclear-power aspirants may take advantage of countries with lax export control systems to import materials and technology that can be diverted to nuclear weapon and missile development.

In an effort to block nuclear terrorism, he called for strengthening coordination with other countries and the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure nuclear security, and promised Japan would take a leading role at a nuclear security summit slated for March in The Hague.

"Expansion of the peaceful use of nuclear power globally has led to an increase in the danger of nuclear terrorism," he said, referring to potential terrorist attacks on nuclear power plants and radioactive materials. "I believe Japan needs to properly respond to this issue."

To achieve a world with no nuclear weapons, Kishida said countries must pursue both nuclear disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation, calling them "a pair of wheels."

"If the world promotes nuclear disarmament, it makes no sense to allow the emergence of countries possessing nuclear weapons," he said.

Kishida noted the need to involve nuclear powers such as Britain, France and China in nuclear disarmament negotiations between the United States and Russia.

He also called for boosting transparency in such countries' nuclear capabilities including the number of nuclear warheads and carrier vehicles they possess, which he said is essential in reducing these countries' nuclear arsenal.

Kishida said that in collaboration with other regional powers such as the United States and South Korea, Japan will keep pushing North Korea to take specific action toward denuclearization.

Japan, together with other countries, will continue to strictly impose sanctions on North Korea in line with relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions, he said.