With the recent reactor meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, and the confirmation that North Korea is in possession of nuclear weapons, the use of nuclear power, in all its forms, has been at the forefront of debate.
On the second day of the 6th Jeju Forum for Peace & Prosperity, the conference “Is Nuclear-Free East Asia Possible?: Opportunities and Constraints,” was at times a heated debate about terrorism, nuclear safety, and North Korea.
Moderator Peter Hayes, director of the Nautilus Institute for Security & Sustainability, stated the meeting’s agenda and explained that the situation needs to be dealt with from a non-proliferation and safety perspective.
Zhenqian Pan, senior advisor for the China Reform Forum, said that if Northeast Asia becomes free of nuclear weapons it can “provide a good example to the world how countries that work together can solve so many problems.”
But the problem is the current arms race in the area and to properly deal with the situation “we must address the deep seated mistrust of major players in this region.”
Nobuyasu Abe, director of the Center for the Promotion of Disarmament and Non-Proliferation at the Japan Institute, said that nuclear disarmament in Asia in this day and age is not possible solely in one area.
“If you look around this region, you cannot make the countries who have nuclear weapons give them up, you cannot have a nuclear weapon-free East Asia. There are Russia, China, and North Korea who have nuclear weapons, but some may also say Americans also have either strategy or have deployed nuclear weapons in the region so let’s count them in. So we have to make four of them give up nuclear weapons to make East Asia weapon-free.”
He continued that this is the best time to promote the dismantling of nuclear weapons because US President Barack Obama advocates this agenda.
“Then we have to think about China,” he said, which has an undisclosed number of weapons and will not consider dismantling them unless the US and Russia do so first. But the problem is, he continued, “without transparency [about the number of nuclear weapons China has], the Russians and Americans will hesitate” about reductions to their own arsenals.
John Gareth Evans, the chancellor of Australia National University, said “I’d love to think this region could lead the way to a nuclear-free world, but ... in the real world that’s not going to happen except in the context of a wider nuclear-free world as a whole.”
For this to come about, he said, Russia and America have to take a leading role since combined they have 22,000 of the 23,000 nuclear weapons in the world.
On the other hand, Kang Choi, professor at the institute of Foreign Affairs & National Security, agreed with much of what was said, but he insisted that South Korea has a different priority when it comes to nuclear disarmament.
“For South Korea maybe the nuclear deterrent is right now the most important issue for us because of the North Korea nuclear challenge,” he said, adding that the second issue for the region has to do with potential accidents to nuclear power plants.
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