Tokyo: The Japanese government Monday defended its support for a deal opening nuclear trade with India, despite a public outcry in the only nation to have suffered atomic bombings.
After intense lobbying from Washington and New Delhi, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which controls the export and sale of nuclear technology, approved a waiver of restrictions on India at a Saturday meeting in Vienna.
It was a vital step in securing a 2005 India-US deal, under which New Delhi will gain access to civilian nuclear technology despite refusing to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The spokesman for the Japanese government acknowledged that Japan still had concerns about the deal.
“We joined the consensus taking a broad viewpoint,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura told a news conference.
He argued that nuclear power helps fight global warming.
“It would be a tool to prevent the emission of a huge volume of greenhouse gas as this emerging country of a billion people continues its rapid growth,” Machimura said.
Machimura said the deal was a step forward by bringing in international monitoring of Indian nuclear facilities and reinforcing New Delhi’s moratorium on nuclear tests.
But he added: “We still hold concerns that the nuclear agreement on India, which is not part of the NPT, may affect the international regime for nuclear arms reduction and non-proliferation.”
He said Japan urged India to join the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty at the conference and would continue to do so.
The mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were destroyed by US nuclear bombs in World War II, both lobbied unsuccessfully for Japan to block the deal at the Vienna meeting.
In an editorial Monday, the Asahi Shimbun daily said Japan had supported “a historic mistake” that would weaken global efforts at non-proliferation.
“After North Korea, there are now strong proliferation concerns about Iran,” the influential liberal newspaper said.
“This should really be a time to increase the integrity of the NPT and attempt to ease the nuclear crisis. This decision goes completely in the opposite direction,” it said.