Los Alamos National Laboratory performs subcritical nuclear test at Nevada Test Site

Japanese demand disclosure of secret nuclear weapons provisions in U.S.-Japanese Security Treaty

*On the eve of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty review, the United States government set off yet another subcritical nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site. This latest one was nicknamed 'Thoroughbred'.

The Department of Energy performed this 'subcritical' nuclear test at 11am on March 22nd. 'Subcritical' nuclear tests are a kind of nuclear test in which an actual nuclear explosion does not go critical. The U.S. and Russia argue that subcritical nuclear tests are permitted under the terms of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, but antinuclear groups worldwide counter that subcritical nuclear tests violate the spirit and intent of the Treaty and enable the further development and modification of existing nuclear weapons designs. Both the U.S. and Russia have extensive programs of 'subcritical' nuclear testing. The "Thouroughbred" test is the second for the year 2000 in the U.S., and a third is planned in April.

Internationally, this test provoked a number of protests. Irene Gale of the Australian Peace Committee and John Hallam of Friends of the Earth stated, "It is especially inappropriate for the US and Russia to proceed with subcritical nuclear tests aimed at the further development and optimisation of nuclear weapons designs, on the eve of the review conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Article VI of the Treaty asks the nuclear weapons states to negotiate immediately to eliminate their nuclear arsenals, yet subcritical nuclear testing in either the US or Russia, assumes that those arsenals are going to be around for the foreseeable future. This review conference is generally conceded by all, to likely be difficult. The difficulty arises precisely because of the failure of the nuclear weapons powers to fulfill their clear obligations under article VI of the Treaty. Subcritical nuclear testing is hardly going to make things easier. What is required on the part of the nuclear weapons powers is to negotiate in good faith to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. Initiatives are urgently required that will reinvigorate what was once a hopeful process of nuclear arms reduction and elimination. Australia has a part to play in this, and we are not playing it as long as we sit on the sidelines and act as an apologist for the weapons states."

In Japan, the atomic bomb survivors organization of Hiroshima staged a sit-in at Peace Memorial Park and sent a letter to Japan's Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi requesting that the Japanese government oppose all nuclear testing. The A-bomb survivors' organization in Nagasaki likewise sent a letter to President Clinton, appealing that "All you must do is accept the responsibility for the tragedy caused by the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, apologize to, and work for abolishing nuclear weapons not to repeat the same tragedy."

*In other news in Japan, the newspaper Akahata appealed to Japan's prime minister last week, demanding that he make public nuclear weapons agreements that allegedly are part of the 1960 Security Treaty between Japan and the United States. The newspaper references several declassified U.S. documents, which suggest that the Security Treaty contained secret provisions allowing that U.S. nuclear weapons be stationed on Japanese territory.

So far the Japanese government has maintained that installing U.S. nuclear weapons on Japanese territory would be 'subject to prior consultation' with the U.S. government under the terms of the treaty. But some Japanese argue that the U.S. nuclear weapons may enter Japanese ports and airports temporarily while transiting the country, and that these weapons movements are not subject to prior consultation under the treaty guidelines. A 1961 recently declassified U.S. State department internal document states that "while our treaty arrangements with Japan require formal consultation before nuclear weapons are 'introduced' into Japan, the Japanese government has confidentially agreed, in effect, that weapons on vessels and aircraft on transit through Japan are none of its concern."

Japanese opposition leaders are pressing their government to stage a thorough public investigation into the matter.

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