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Japan, Democracy, and the Globalization of Nuclear Power (Part 1 of “Japanʻs Nuclear Nightmare”)

March 18, 2011 

In “Japan, Democracy, and the Globalization of Nuclear Power,” Tim Shorrock, an independent journalist and blogger on Asian Pacific issues gives an excellent and critical account of the origins and rise of Japanʻs nuclear industry:

The nuclear industry was born a deformed monster in Japan when the U.S. warplane Enola Gay dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

As a journalist covering Japanese nuclear issues in the early 1980s, he witnessed and wrote about the community struggles against nuclear power.   The catastrophe unfolding at the Fukushima nuclear power plant was to be expected as an outcome of the corrupt and anti-democratic processes driving their proliferation.  He describes several ʻbig holesʻ in the public rationale for nuclear power in Japan:

I’m speaking of the industry’s and government’s tendency to play up the positives of nuclear power and ignore its many downsides; the undemocratic nature of the siting and building process, which has historically excluded citizens’ groups and made it very hard to oppose – let alone block – the construction of new plants; and the two-tiered labor system, which has created an underclass of contract workers – “nuclear gypsies” – who do the dirty work at the plants and suffer the most from radiation and other industrial diseases.

This is the first part a series Japan’s Nuclear Nightmare READ THE FULL ARTICLE The second part deals with “nuclear gypsies”.

Check out Tim Shorrockʻs blog for many other articles related to the National Security Agency and intelligence matters, North East Asia issues, globalization and global justice movements.

Obama talks about ‘disarmament’ but seeks increased spending on nukes

February 11, 2010 

http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/op-eds/the-obama-disarmament-paradox

The Obama disarmament paradox

By Greg Mello | 4 February 2010

Article Highlights

  • The latest federal budget request includes a large increase in spending for nuclear weapons.
  • Such an increase contradicts President Obama’s speech in Prague last April, during which he seemed to signal a commitment to significant nuclear disarmament.
  • Now it’s a question of whether Congress will reject the Obama budget request–a strategy it used to keep President George W. Bush from pursuing new nuclear weapon programs.

Last April in Prague, President Barack Obama gave a speech that many have interpreted as a commitment to significant nuclear disarmament.

Now, however, the White House is requesting one of the larger increases in warhead spending history. If its request is fully funded, warhead spending would rise 10 percent in a single year, with further increases promised for the future. Los Alamos National Laboratory, the biggest target of the Obama largesse, would see a 22 percent budget increase, its largest since 1944. In particular, funding for a new plutonium “pit” factory complex there would more than double, signaling a commitment to produce new nuclear weapons a decade hence.

So how is the president’s budget compatible with his disarmament vision?

The answer is simple: There is no evidence that Obama has, or ever had, any such vision. He said nothing to that effect in Prague. There, he merely spoke of his commitment “to seek . . . a world without nuclear weapons,” a vague aspiration and hardly a novel one at that level of abstraction. He said that in the meantime the United States “will maintain a safe, secure, and effective arsenal to deter any adversary, and guarantee that defense to our allies.”

Since nuclear weapons don’t, and won’t ever, “deter any adversary,” this too was highly aspirational, if not futile. The vain search for an “effective” arsenal that can deter “any” adversary requires unending innovation and continuous real investment, including investment in the extended deterrent to which Obama referred. The promise of such investments, and not disarmament, was the operative message in Prague as far as the U.S. stockpile was concerned. In fact, proposed new investments in extended deterrence were already being packaged for Congress when Obama spoke.

To fulfill his supposed “disarmament vision,” Obama offered just two approaches in Prague, both indefinite. First, he spoke vaguely of reducing “the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy.” It’s far from clear what that might actually mean, or even what it could mean. Most likely it refers to official discourse–what officials say about nuclear doctrine–as opposed to actual facts on the ground. Second, Obama promised to negotiate “a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty [START] with the Russians.” As far as nuclear disarmament went in the speech, that was it.

Of course, Obama also said his administration would promptly pursue ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, an action not yet taken and one entirely unrelated to U.S. disarmament. The rest of the speech was devoted to various nonproliferation initiatives that his administration planned to seek.

On July 8, Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced their Joint Understanding, committing their respective countries to somewhere between 500 to 1,100 strategic delivery vehicles and 1,500 to 1,675 deployed strategic warheads, very modest goals to be achieved a full seven years after the treaty entered into force. Total arsenal numbers wouldn’t change, so strategic warheads could be taken from deployment and placed in a reserve–de-alerted, in effect. The treaty wouldn’t affect nonstrategic warheads. It wouldn’t require dismantlement. As Hans Kristensen at the Federation of American Scientists has explained, the delivery vehicle limits require little, if any, change from U.S. and Russian expected deployments.

Ironically, it’s possible that the retirement PDF of 4,000 or more U.S. warheads under the Moscow Treaty and other retirements ordered by George W. Bush may exceed anything Obama does in terms of disarmament. As for the stockpile and weapons complex, Bush’s aspirations were far more hawkish than Congress ultimately allowed. Real budgets for warheads fell during his last three years in office. Now, with the Democrats controlling the executive branch and both houses of Congress, congressional restraint is notable by its absence. What Obama mainly seems to be “disarming” is congressional resistance to variations of some of the same proposals Bush found it difficult to authorize and fund.

Last May Obama sent his first budget to Congress, calling for flat warhead spending. At that time, the administration was still displaying a measured approach toward replacement and expansion of warhead capabilities.

That said, in last year’s budget the White House did acquiesce to a Pentagon demand to request funding for a major upgrade to four B61 nuclear bomb variants–one of which had just completed a 20-year-plus life-extension program. Just one day before that budget was released a grand nuclear strategy review previously requested by the armed services committees was unveiled. It was chaired by William Perry, a member of the governing board of the corporation that manages Los Alamos, and recurrent Cold War fixture James Schlesinger. [Full disclosure: Perry is also a member of the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors.]

The report’s recommendations for increased spending and weapons development quickly began to serve as a rallying point for defense hawks–surely the point of the exercise. Overall, it was largely a conclusory pastiche of recycled Cold War notions, entirely lacking in analysis and often factually wrong. But neither the White House nor leading congressional Democrats offered any public resistance or rebuttal to its conclusions.

More largely, opposition to nuclear restraint within the administration quickly emerged from its usual redoubts at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the Pentagon, STRATCOM, and interested players in both parties in Congress. Plus, Obama left key Bush appointees in place at NNSA while the Pentagon added some familiar faces from the Clinton administration, leaving serious questions about the ability of the White House to develop an independent understanding of the issues, let alone present one to Congress.

Either way, potential treaty ratification is surely a major factor in White House thinking. Senate Republicans, as expected, are demanding significant nuclear investments prior to considering ratification of any START follow-on treaty. Democratic hawks, especially powerful ones with pork-barrel interests at stake such as New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman, also must be satisfied in the ratification process. All in all this makes the latest Obama budget request a kind of “preemptive surrender” to nuclear hawks. So whether or not the president has a disarmament “vision” is irrelevant. What is important are the policy commitments embodied in the budget request and whether Congress will endorse them.

Investments on the scale requested should be flatly unacceptable to all of us. The country and the world face truly apocalyptic security challenges from climate change and looming shortages of transportation fuels. Our economy is very weak and will remain so for the foreseeable future. The proposed increases in nuclear weapons spending, embedded as they are in an overall military budget bigger than any since the 1940s, should be a clarion call for renewed political commitment in service of the fundamental values that uphold this, or any, society.

Those values are now gravely threatened–not least by a White House uncertain about, or unwilling or unable to fight for, what is right.

Japan government to reveal details of secret pact with U.S. allowing nuclear weapons into Japan

November 25, 2009 

The Democratic Party of Japan, the new ruling party that broke 60 years of conservative party domination, will reveal details of a secret agreement between Japan and the U.S. that allowed the U.S. military to bring nuclear weapons into Japan despite an explicit prohibition under Japanese law.  Ralph A. Cossa, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Pacific Forum reacted to this announcement by saying:  “This is not the type of issue your closest ally forces you to confront publicly…At a minimum, it adds unnecessary friction to the alliance and makes U.S. ship visits, which are now routine, once again a source of contention and a rallying point for protest.”

Actually, secretly bringing in nuclear weapons to the only country that was nuked in war is not the kind of issue you force your closest ally to accept.   And if there is anything adding “unnecessary friction” it would be the enormous U.S. military presence and its arrogant behavior in the region, i.e. destruction of an entire farming village in Pyeongtaek, S. Korea to make way for the expansion of a U.S. base, the proposed destruction of Henoko to expand Camp Schwab, the military inundation of Guam and the Northern Marianas despite the smothering impact this will have on Chamoru people, counter-insurgency disguised as “training” in Mindanao.   It’s the imperial conduct and secrecy of the U.S. that causes unnecessary friction, not the disclosure of the truth.

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/24/AR2009112401922.html?wpisrc=newsletter

Japan says it will soon release details of nuclear pact with U.S.

Though existence of accord was known, move puts strain on ties

By Blaine Harden

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

TOKYO — Japan’s new government, already bickering with the United States about the location of a Marine air station on Okinawa, appears intent on revealing evidence of a decades-old secret pact between Tokyo and Washington that allowed U.S. ships and aircraft to carry nuclear weapons on stopovers in Japan.

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said that the investigation is in its final stages and that its findings will be announced in January. “We’ll be unburdening ourselves of the insistence of past governments that a secret agreement did not exist,” Okada said in a speech last weekend.

The pact violates a Japanese law that prohibits nuclear weapons from being made, possessed or stored on its territory. But disclosure of the 1960s-era agreement is hardly new. In general outline, its existence has been known for years because of declassified U.S. government documents.

Still, the Tokyo government’s insistence on an official investigation of the matter has placed new strain on U.S.-Japanese relations.

“This is not the type of issue your closest ally forces you to confront publicly,” said Ralph A. Cossa, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Pacific Forum, a think tank in Honolulu. “At a minimum, it adds unnecessary friction to the alliance and makes U.S. ship visits, which are now routine, once again a source of contention and a rallying point for protest.”

When Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates visited Japan last month, he reportedly told Japan’s defense minister not to allow the investigation of the agreement to hurt bilateral relations or weaken U.S. nuclear deterrence. The U.S. government is treaty-bound to defend Japan in case of attack, and it has about 36,000 military personnel based here.

The traditionally close U.S.-Japan alliance has been knocked off balance in recent months by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s insistence that Japan be more assertive in controlling the heavy footprint of U.S. military forces on its soil.

During President Obama’s recent visit to Japan, he and Hatoyama agreed to create a working group of high-level officials from their countries to resolve a dispute over the location of the Futenma Marine air station in Okinawa. Noise and pollution from the base annoy local residents.

But the leaders have since disagreed over what the working group is supposed to do. Obama says it should focus only on implementing a three-year-old agreement to allow the air station to be relocated on Okinawa. Hatoyama says it must be able to do much more or else it is “meaningless.” He has said he wants the air station moved off Okinawa or outside Japan.

The dispute over the air station has become a highly publicized symbol of Japan’s new forcefulness in negotiations with its most important ally. It is also an early political test of the leadership ability of Hatoyama and his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).

To an even greater degree, Japan’s probe of the secret nuclear pact with the United States is as much symbol as substance.

In part, that is because the pact is now moot: Both governments say U.S. vessels no longer bring nuclear weapons into Japan.

But disclosing its existence has a clear political upside for the DPJ, which won a crushing victory in recent lower-house parliamentary elections and is preparing for another election in the upper house in the summer.

Publicity about the pact is almost certain to embarrass the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which until this fall had ruled Japan as a virtual one-party state for nearly half a century and quietly decided in the 1960s to ignore the law when nuclear-armed U.S. ships entered Japanese ports.

The LDP’s policy research council has said that full disclosure of diplomatic agreements “does not necessarily guarantee the protection of national interest.”

Yet there may well be a political price to pay. There is a profound populist antipathy to nuclear weapons in Japan. The United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, killing about 220,000 people.

Pearl Harbor, Part II?

August 17, 2009 

Good analysis of the North Korea crisis.

Pearl Harbor, Part II?

by JOHN FEFFER | Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The war in Afghanistan is ugly. The conflict in Iraq is still seething. The prospect of Pakistan’s collapse is terrifying.

But the real nightmare scenario, or so the media headlines suggest, involves North Korea. Its leader is wacko. It’s adding to its nuclear arsenal. It’s making preparations for a missile launch aimed at Hawaii.

The Japanese attacked us 68 years ago. The Pentagon is bracing for Pearl Harbor, part II. This is serious stuff. The Taliban might be crazy, but they don’t have nukes and we don’t expect them to bomb Waikiki any time soon.

Never fear: the Obama administration has crafted a robust response to North Korea. We pushed through a UN resolution, with Chinese and Russian support, that ups the sanctions against Pyongyang and authorizes the naval interdiction of North Korean vessels suspected of delivering weapons or other suspicious materials. We sat down with South Korean leader Lee Myung-bak and reaffirmed our willingness to retaliate with nuclear weapons if the South is attacked. We’ve beefed up our defenses in Hawaii. We’re currently tailing a North Korean ship as it heads toward Burma.

In his eagerness to show that he has the strength of will to confront a nuclear bully, President Barack Obama hopes to dispel any illusions – among conservatives here, among the leadership in North Korea – that he’s a “cut-and-run” kind of guy. He can multitask. He can talk and prepare for war at the same time. This guy can take care of pesky flies like North Korea.

I’m not sure who’s giving the president his advice on North Korea. But it’s all wrong. His show of “resolve” has only made matters worse.

Myth 1: North Korea is about to attack Hawaii: North Korea has two long-range missiles, the Taepodong-1 and the Taepodong-2. The first, likely used only for satellite launches, can maybe go 2,500 miles. But it’s never been successfully tested. The Taepondong-2 maybe could go about 3,700 miles. But it too has failed in its two tests: a quick fizzle in 2006 and a failure in the third stage this last April. Even if Pyongyang gets everything right for a possible July 4 test, it’s 4,500 miles between Pyongyang and Honolulu. As for putting a nuclear warhead on the top of it, North Korea has shown no evidence that it has the necessary miniaturization technology.

Myth #2: North Korea is a military threat: North Korea has a lot of people in uniform, and its artillery can cause horrific damage to Seoul. But North Korea spends about half a billion dollars a year on its military. South Korea alone spends 40 times that amount. And the United States spends 1,000 times more. Neither China nor Russia would support any North Korean military action. Militarily speaking, North Korea is a kamikaze country. It can inflict damage, but only in a suicide attack and only close to home.

Myth 3: We really showed them at the UN: The Security Council statement in April and the resolution in June certainly communicated international anger at North Korea’s rocket and nuclear tests. But we overreacted to the April launch. We should have treated it as a satellite launch and pressed forward with negotiations. Instead, North Korea responded to our fierce words by upping the ante and conducting a second nuclear test. The UN statement was as satisfying as hitting a problem with a baseball bat – except that the problem in this case was a hornet’s nest. The more recent resolution, meanwhile, represents a dangerous escalation: a confrontation at sea might trigger a much larger conflict.

Myth 4: Kim Jong Il is crazy and North Korea is an unpredictable rogue state: Actually, North Korean reactions have been quite predictable and, at least within the North Korean context, rational. Pyongyang was unhappy with the course of negotiations and its relative lack of priority on Obama’s to-do list. Rocket launches and nuclear tests have yielded both attention and concessions in the past, so they went with what works. And they telegraphed their moves well in advance. The leader of North Korea runs a brutal state and a mind-numbing personality cult. And North Korea’s official statements often sound like the scripts from bad horror movies. But Kim Jong Il worked out shrewd deals in the past – with the Clinton and Bush administrations, with the Kim Dae-Jung and Roh-Moo Hyun governments in South Korea, and even with Junichiro Koizumi in Japan back in 2002. If he’s mad, there’s a method in his madness.

We are retracing the same steps as 1993-1994, a path of escalation that nearly led to war. As I write in The Obama-Lee Summit: Dangerous Consensus?, “North Korea, with so little to lose, is the master of brinksmanship. It is not wise to enter into a tit-for-tat match with such a country. At this point, more important than finding common ground between the United States and South Korea is establishing common ground between North Korea and the rest of the world. By all means, Washington and Seoul should coordinate policy. But they should also keep their eyes on the prize: resolving the current crisis with North Korea without resorting to force.”

The United States should focus on nuclear nonproliferation, urges Foreign Policy In Focus contributor Wade Huntley, and make sure North Korea doesn’t cross that red line. In the meantime, Washington should continue taking steps toward nuclear abolition. “Complete nuclear abolition need not be fully achieved in order to realize the constitution of a global security order that eliminates all threats of nuclear conflict,” he writes in Dealing with North Korea’s Tests. “And as the rest of this community becomes warmer, it will become increasingly tempting for North Korea to come in out of the cold.”

It’s definitely frustrating to negotiate with North Korea. And many respected analysts have serious doubts as to whether Pyongyang will ever give up its nuclear weapons. But when we were talking seriously with North Korea, it kept its plutonium program frozen (Clinton) or began dismantling it (Bush), and its long-range missile program was still rudimentary. That beats war every time. In 1994, former President Jimmy Carter helped avert confrontation by visiting Pyongyang and working out a compromise. Maybe the Man from Plains can get on the plane again. The escalation must stop: It’s time to talk.

Source: http://www.fpif.org/fpifzines/wb/6210

Obama wants to put federal nuclear weapons labs under the Pentagon

February 6, 2009 

According to an AP story carried here in the Marine Corps Times, Obama is considering placing the federal laboratories that developed nuclear weapons under the military.  This would be a dangerous development.

The AP writes:

The Obama administration is considering moving the nation’s federal weapons complex, including New Mexico’s Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories, under military control, ending decades of civilian oversight.

The article continues:

Civilian management stems from a World War II decision by J. Robert Oppenheimer, the top scientist on the secret Manhattan Project that built the world’s first atomic bomb and led to the founding of Los Alamos lab. Oppenheimer had the weapons designed by civilian scientists rather than military officers.

Read the full article here: http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/02/ap_obama_labs_020409/

David Krieger to speak on Nuclear Weapons and the Human Future

February 4, 2009 

NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND THE HUMAN FUTURE

David Krieger, PhD
President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Santa Barbara, California

Thursday, February 12, 2009
6pm to 8pm
Honolulu Friends Meeting House
2426 O`ahu Avenue
Honolulu, Hawai`i
Free and open to the public

David Krieger is a founder and President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, which has initiated many innovative and important projects for building peace, strengthening international law and abolishing nuclear weapons. Dr. Krieger will speak about the challenges and prospects of abolishing nuclear weapons under the Obama administration.

He has lectured widely on issues of peace, security, international law, and the abolition of nuclear weapons and is the author of many studies of peace in the Nuclear Age, including The Challenge of Abolishing Nuclear Weapons (based on a recent conference organized by Hawai’i’s Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research). He serves on the Boards of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, the International Institute for Peace, the Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence and Mayors for Peace. He also served as panel chair of the Citizens’ Hearing on the Legality of U.S. Actions in Iraq and as a member of the Jury of Conscience of the World Tribunal on Iraq.

Co-sponsors: American Friends Service Committee – Hawai’i, DMZ-Hawai’i / Aloha ‘Aina, Pacific Justice and Reconcilliation Center, Matsunaga Institute for Peace-UH Manoa, ‘Ohana Koa/ Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific.

For more information, please contact: Richard at (808) 956-3712 or Terri at (808) 988-6266

Download the leaflet to the event and Krieger’s biography here.

Nuclear future for Hawai’i? ‘A’ole!

January 10, 2009 

The Honolulu Advertiser editorialized that perhaps Hawai’i should reconsider its ban on nuclear power since the Navy continues to violate Hawai’i’s constitution by bringing nuclear powered ships and nuclear weapons into our waters and ports.   Crazy.

We almost had a nuclear catastrophe in port when a fire aboard the USS Sargo nearly caused a meltdown of the reactor. The captain had to sink the ship to flood it in order to extinguish the fire.

Leaking nuclear cooling water has led to radioactive Cobalt 60 contamination in the sediment of Ke Awalau o Pu’uloa (aka Pearl Harbor).

Spent fuel is cut out of the nuclear ships and stored on the docks in the shipyard behind concrete barricades until they can ship it out to a “permanent” disposal site.  Problem is, there are no safe and permanent methods of disposing of nuclear waste.

No, Hawai’i should strengthen it’s nuclear ban, and make the Navy adhere to it.

Hawaii’s nuclear future

January 9th, 2009 by Jerry Burris

The latest word is that the Navy intends to homeport a number of the latest class of nuclear submarines at Pearl Harbor. Military reporter William Cole has the story HERE.

That’s good news for the economy, workers at Pearl Harbor Shipyard and and for folks who sell things to the submariners and their families. Part of the work of the Shipyard will be involved with nuclear reactor “refueling and defuelings,” according to Cole.

This raises an interesting question as the state moves toward an energy future that is less dependent on oil. Today, the state constitution forbids the use of nuclear power without extraordinary approval by the Legislature (section 8). Might this change the argument?

After all, we are already putting nuclear fuel in and taking nuclear fuel out within the borders of our state. Should this option be reserved for the military alone?

A thought, at any rate.

Source: http://akamaipolitics.honadvblogs.com/2009/01/09/hawaiis-nuclear-future/

Tackling the Global Military Industrial Complex

December 11, 2008 

Tackling the Global Military Industrial Complex

By John Feffer

The headlines coming out of East Asia have been rather positive – compared to the horrors of Iraq and Afghanistan, melting glaciers, and plummeting stock markets. The Six Party Talks have been making progress toward ending the confrontation between the United States and North Korea and denuclearizing the Korean peninsula. Over the summer, North Korea provided a detailed accounting of its nuclear programs and even destroyed the cooling tower of its Yongbyon nuclear reactor. The Bush administration in turn announced that it was taking North Korea off the Trading with the Enemy Act list and the State Sponsor of Terrorism list. After a disagreement over verification, the two sides reached a compromise in October and negotiations are heading toward their third and final stage.

Helped by the other Six Party participants – South Korea, Japan, Russia, and China – the United States and North Korea appear to be only a few steps away from ending the Cold War that has divided them for more than half a century.

However, even if negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang proceed smoothly to the next level, the situation in East Asia is far from peaceful. Beneath the surface, an arms race among the countries in the Six Party Talks continues to heat up. Although a global economic recession is putting pressure on budgets everywhere, military spending will likely continue its upward trajectory without public pressure.

The arms race in Northeast Asia is driving up global military expenditures. Any effort to get a grip on the global military industrial complex will have to begin with these six countries.

Military Budgets on the Rise

The numbers are startling. U.S. military spending, which represents nearly half of all global military expenditures, has increased over 70 percent since 2001. Between 1999 and 2006, South Korea also raised its defense spending by over 70 percent, and the government in Seoul plans to increase this figure by 7-8 percent every year for the next dozen years. Chinese and Russian military spending increases have been even larger over the same period. In its difficult economic straits, North Korea has attempted to keep pace, increasing military spending by 25% (in local currency) between 2004 and 2007. Only Japan has not increased its expenditures over the same period, though an influential group of politicians in the ruling party has been pushing to remove the 1%-of-GDP cap on military spending.

The arms race in East Asia has specific, regional implications. The United States continues to lavish funds on Cold War weapons systems that can only be used in wars against comparable adversaries (in other words, China or Russia). While Beijing and Washington have cooperated on such issues as the Six Party negotiations and counter-terrorism, the Pentagon’s moves to deploy missile defense systems in the Asia Pacific are raising Chinese eyebrows. North Korea has developed weapons that undermine the security of the other members of the Six Party talks. But South Korea, too, is acquiring military capability that can reach beyond the peninsula. China’s rapid increase in military spending is creating jitters among her neighbors in the region. Washington may find comfort in an emerging new political consensus in Japan that favors a strong, offensively arrayed military, but Beijing, Seoul, and Pyongyang are keeping a worried eye on it. With Russia and China moving closer together in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the United States and Japan strengthening their bilateral alliance, a new Cold War divide is emerging in the region. Increased military spending is both a symptom and a driver of this new confrontation.

This is no mere regional issue. In East Asia, the largest militaries in the world – the United States, China, Russia, and Japan – all face one another. The countries participating in the Six-Party Talks are responsible for 65% of global military spending. These developments in East Asia mirror a global trend: world military expenditures increased by 45 percent over the last decade.

Military Freeze

To address this new Cold War, publicize its “hidden” arms race, and press the governments concerned to change their budget priorities, activists from the peace and Asian-American communities have proposed a Pacific Freeze campaign. Modeled after Randall Forsberg’s Nuclear Weapons Freeze campaign of the 1980s, the Pacific Freeze calls on the governments in the Six Party Talks to freeze their military spending and then reduce their budgets on an equitable basis – with the United States leading the way – as a first step in demilitarizing the region. Like Forsberg’s earlier campaign, the initial freeze on military spending would be mutual.

The Freeze includes both the United States and Russia, for they are Pacific powers and spend a great deal of money on their military presence in the region. They are also the top two arms exporters in the world. Any attempt to restrain military spending that does not include the former Cold War adversaries will not likely succeed. The Freeze also applies to the entirety of the military budgets and not just the portions used in the Pacific region. The United States does not spend its entire half-trillion dollar military budget on its military presence in the Pacific. Nor do Russia and China. However, all three countries can redeploy troops and military hardware to the Pacific region in an emergency. And, since all six countries spend far in excess of their legitimate security needs, freezing the overall budget is a necessary first step in establishing reasonable budget priorities.

The ultimate goal of the campaign is to draw down military budgets and transfer a portion of the savings to a regional Green Energy fund. But the intermediary goal, as with the Nuclear Freeze campaign of the 1980s, is to get people talking about the issue. Right now, military spending is a sacred cow in all six countries. Every government insists that military “modernization” is imperative. Few civic groups have been able to raise the issue in a unilateral context in the sense of urging their government to unilaterally reduce military spending. So, both governments, and to a certain extent civic groups too, are trapped in a security dilemma. Yet this narrow security dilemma is itself inset in a much larger human security dilemma. At a time when we urgently need funds for the food crisis, the energy crisis, the climate crisis, the AIDS crisis, and other looming crises – all of which threaten human security – military spending is nowhere near the top of the global agenda.

The Six Party Talks provide a strategic opening for this kind of campaign. The participating governments have all been talking peace but preparing for war. With the Freeze, we call on the governments to put their money where the mouths are. Any progress in the nuclear talks is commendable. But the runaway military budgets exacerbate the many challenges to regional security. Despite booming trade relations, the region faces many threats to stability. A regional security mechanism, one of the working groups within the Six Party framework, could begin to address these threats. But unless such a mechanism deals with the arms race in the region, it will address only surface issues and fail to grapple with a driving force behind insecurity.

Obama’s Dilemma

The current financial crisis – which has finally kicked in globally – may do what peace activists have been unable to do: impose austerity measures on military spending. The prospects for this, however, are not good. First of all, during past recessions and depressions, governments have used arms spending to maintain employment and stimulate the economy. Second, in the United States, the Democratic Party has continually feared being perceived as “soft on the military.” Although he has urged an end to the war in Iraq, Obama also called for redeploying troops to Afghanistan, increasing the size of the military by 92,000 troops, and staying “on the offense, from Djibouti to Kandahar.” The Pentagon wants an increase in military spending of $450 billion over the next five years (that’s over and above the already-scheduled increases for next two years).

Obama, however, is pushing for a large economic stimulus and universal health care. At a time when tax increases are largely off the table, where will the new president get the money for these ambitious plans? The peace movement has to push hard for Obama to choose butter over guns.

Peace activists have tried for years to clip the wings of the Pentagon. We’ve pushed for military reductions domestically and watched the Pentagon expand like the Blob. We’ve tried to work at an international level to restrain military spending only to witness the creation of a global military industrial complex. It’s time to try something new. Let’s leverage the negative impact of the financial crisis and the positive developments of the Six Party Talks to get the issue of military spending on table. The global military industrial complex is eating our planet. A freeze is the first step in chaining this monster and turning to the real problems that confront us.

For more information and to sign the Pacific Freeze Call to Action, please visit: http://www.pacificfreeze.ips-dc.org/

John Feffer is the co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus – www.fpif.org – at the Institute for Policy Studies.

You can sign on to War Times/Tiempo de Guerras e-mail Announcement List at http://www.war-times.org.

Nuclear Sub leaked radioactive water for months

August 1, 2008 

August 1, 2008

CNN: Nuclear sub leaked radioactive water in Pacific for months

From Jamie McIntyre and Mike Mount
CNN Pentagon Unit

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Water with trace amounts of radioactivity may have leaked for months from a U.S. Navy nuclear-powered submarine as it traveled around the Pacific to ports in Guam, Japan and Hawaii,Navy officials told CNN on Friday.

The USS Houston arrives in Pearl Harbor for routine maintenance, during which the leak was found.

The USS Houston arrives in Pearl Harbor for routine maintenance, during which the leak was found.

The leak was found on the USS Houston, a Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine, after it went to Hawaii for routine maintenance last month, Navy officials said.

Navy officials said the amount of radiation leaked into the water was virtually undetectable. But the Navy alerted the Japanese government because the submarine had been docked in Japan.

The problem was discovered last month when a build-up of leaking water popped a covered valve and poured onto a sailor’s leg while the submarine was in dry dock.

An investigation found a valve was slowly dripping water from the sub’s nuclear power plant. The water had not been in direct contact with the nuclear reactor, Navy officials said.

Officials with knowledge of the incident could not quantify the amount of radiation leaked but insisted it was “negligible” and an “extremely low level.” The total amount leaked while the sub was in port in Guam, Japan and Hawaii was less than a half of a microcurie (0.0000005 curies), or less than what is found in a 50-pound bag of lawn and garden fertilizer, the officials said.

The sailor who was doused, a Houston crew member, tested negative for radiation from the water, according to Navy officials.

Since March, the Houston had crisscrossed the western Pacific, spending a week in Japan and several weeks in both Guam and Hawaii, Navy officials said.

The Navy on Friday notified the Japanese government of the leak, the officials said, and told them it was possible the ship had been leaking while in port in Sasebo, Japan, in March.

While Japan has agreed to allow U.S. nuclear-powered ships in Japanese ports, the decision was a not popular in Japan.

The Houston incident comes at a time when the Navy is trying to smooth over a problem with a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

The USS George Washington was due to replace the aging, conventionally powered USS Kitty Hawk this summer as the United States’ sole carrier based in Japan.

While en route to Japan this May, a massive fire broke out on the George Washington, causing $70 million in damage. The fire was blamed on crew members smoking near improperly stored flammable materials.

There was no damage or threat to the nuclear reactor, but the ship was diverted to San Diego, California, for repairs. It now is expected to arrive in Japan at the end of September.

The Navy this week fired the captain and his deputy, saying an investigation into the fire led to a lack of confidence in the leadership of both men.

Just two weeks ago, thousands of Japanese protested the pending arrival of the George Washington.