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New System Needed To Prevent New Nuclear Weapons States Says IAEA Chief

Abe rules out talk of nuclear Japan
Tokyo (AFP) Oct 16 - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday ruled out debate on Japan developing nuclear weapons in response to North Korea after a close aide called for the country to talk about the long-taboo idea. "To begin with, Japan has three non-nuclear principles," Abe said, referring to the nation's self-imposed policy against "possession, production and presence" of nuclear arms in its territory.

"We will maintain the three principles as our national virtue. There should not be any change in the policy. The government will not debate it," Abe told reporters. Abe, who took office last month, made the remarks after the policy chief of his Liberal Democratic Party called Sunday for an active debate on developing atomic weapons due to the nuclear threat from North Korea.

"I think discussions should be allowed," said Shoichi Nakagawa, the policy chief of the Liberal Democratic Party. "To ensure Japan will not be attacked, arguments could be made that going nuclear is one option." However, Nakagawa said he was not calling for Japan to develoop nuclear weapons. Abe has repeatedly rejected Japan developing nuclear weapons despite his strong support for a more active military role for the country, which has been officially pacifist since its World War II defeat. Photo courtesy of AFP.

by Jean-Michel Stoullig
Vienna (AFP) Oct 16, 2006
The International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday it needed a new system to ensure that 20 to 30 new countries do not develop a nuclear weapon, on top of the nine current nuclear powers, including North Korea. "We need to develop a new system of international approach (or we will not) end up with nine (nuclear-)weapon states only, but with another 20 or 30 states which have the capacity to develop nuclear weapons in a short time," IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said in Vienna.

He was speaking at the opening of a symposium bringing together some 500 experts to discuss how to improve safeguards to ensure that peaceful nuclear programmes are not used for military purposes.

ElBaradei said he was proud that nuclear energy was increasingly being used, adding it was necessary to fight climate change and help poor countries. But he warned that "nuclear know-how will continue to spread ... knowledge is out of tube, for peaceful purposes and unfortunately for non-peaceful purposes."

He spoke of "virtual nuclear weapon states" that now have the means and know-how to enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium, and listed other challenges such as trafficking and potential nuclear terrorism.

"Unfortunately the political environment is not a very secure one ... there are a lot of temptations" to seek nuclear weapons, ElBaradei said, in reference to Iraq and Libya's now-halted military programmes and to Iran's secret nuclear activities, which have been on-going for almost 20 years.

Overseeing the dismantling of existing nuclear weapons -- such as in South Africa twenty years ago, in Libya more recently and maybe one day in North Korea -- is complex, he said. Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States are declared military nuclear powers, along with India and Pakistan, while Israel is also believed to have weapons.

North Korea also announced on October 9 that it had conducted an underground nuclear test. IAEA Deputy Director General for Safeguards Olli Heinonen told journalists Monday that nobody except North Korea "knows how much nuclear material was used... (or) if it was a nuclear explosion," although he said the agency knew where the test was located.

The IAEA will only know for sure what happened when its inspectors, kicked out of North Korea in 2002, are allowed back into the country, he added. The United Nations Security Council said Saturday it was imposing sanctions on North Korea.

The UN nuclear watchdog still has many limitations, ElBaradei said. With a budget of about 120 million dollars (95 million euros) -- "a drop in the ocean" according to him -- "we don't have the financial resources to be independant ... we still don't have labs in Vienna," he said.

Legal tools have been strengthened with the introduction of an additional protocol to the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, giving inspectors a broader mandate.

But only countries who have signed and ratified the documents are subject to them and the protocol is not enough to reassure the international community, regarding Iran's secret activities for instance, the IAEA chief said.

This week's Vienna symposium, the first of its kind since 2001, will focus on advanced technology to detect undeclared nuclear activities.

The UN nuclear watchdog is banking on satellite imagery, environmental sampling by swipes and remote sensors among other things to help its work.

But nothing can compare to the presence of qualified inspectors on the ground, ElBaradei and Heinonen noted.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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US Confirms North Korean Nuclear Test
Washington (AFP) Oct 16, 2006
The United States said Monday tests of air samples confirmed that North Korea conducted a nuclear test October 9, but noted the test was less than one kiloton. A US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the working assumption in the US intelligence community was that North Korea conducted a nuclear test that did not go as planned.

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