Tokyo: Japan on Tuesday signalled it would approve a nuclear energy deal between India and the US, raising the chances that the controversial pact will come into force.
The 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which controls civilian atomic trade, is expected to meet on Thursday in Vienna on the nuclear deal. Objections by any nation would scuttle the pact.
Japan, the only nation to have suffered atomic attack, had been one of the holdouts as it pressed for India to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But chief cabinet secretary Nobutaka Machimura said, “It may be biased to view the deal as going against nuclear non-proliferation efforts.”
Friendly stand: The IAEA headquarters in Vienna. Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Machimura says IAEA’s supervision of Indian nuclear facilities can lead to the strengthening of NPT. Photograph: Mark H. Milstein / Bloomberg
“It is important that India proceeds with nuclear power generation as clean energy,” Machimura said.
The deal would give India access to international nuclear technology after being shut out for decades for refusing to sign the NPT.
Anti-nuclear campaigners have petitioned Japan to block the pact, a key priority for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who nearly faced the collapse of his government over the issue.
The UN’s atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has approved an agreement to inspect some Indian facilities.
Machimura said the IAEA’s supervision of Indian nuclear facilities “can lead to the strengthening of the NPT.” Japan, like the US, has been seeking a closer alliance with India.
Australia, another country seen as a potential opponent of the India-US nuclear deal, said last week that it would “not stand in the way.”
But the NSG also includes a number of European countries, particularly in Scandinavia, that are strongly committed to NPT.