Archive for June, 2014

Nuclear Debates in Asia Digest: Cooperation Expands Between Iran and Asian Powers as Nuclear Talks Continue

Reactor building at Bushehr nuclear plant in Iran (Source: Getty Images)

Reactor building at Bushehr nuclear plant in Iran (Source: Getty Images)

Iran and the P5 + 1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) are currently engaging in historic negotiations over Iran’s controversial nuclear program. The Joint Plan of Action (JPA), signed in November 2013 and entered into force in January 2014, gives the parties six months to solve the international dispute with a final deal. This fragile détente followed the election of Hassan Rouhani – considered by some to be a voice for moderation in Iran – as president last June. These developments triggered enthusiastic reactions within Asian powers soon after the interim agreement was signed. Several countries in the region have vested interests in Iranian oil for their energy needs as well as important concerns regarding nuclear nonproliferation and regional security issues.

On June 9-10, U.S. officials held bilateral meetings with their Iranian counterparts in Geneva on the status of Iran’s nuclear program. Analysts have predicted the talks will be extended an additional six months to resolve outstanding issues, but the JPA formally expires a year after it entered into force. As the July 20, 2014 extension deadline approaches, this Nuclear Debates in Asia Digest highlights the evolution of diplomatic relations over the past months between Iran and countries in the Nuclear Debates in Asia project. (more…)

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RPI Author Hui Zhang: Japan Should Ease China’s Concerns over Nuclear Stockpiles

Rokkasho’s security and safeguards chief looks on central control room through bullet-proof glass (Source: Douglas Birch, Center for Public Integrity)

Rokkasho’s security and safeguards chief looks on central control room through bullet-proof glass (Source: Douglas Birch, Center for Public Integrity)

Despite Japan’s announcement at the Nuclear Security Summit last March that it would return significant quantities of plutonium and highly enriched uranium to the United States, Nuclear Debates in Asia project scholar Dr. Hui Zhang concluded “Chinese experts and officials cannot help but view Japan’s plutonium stocks with considerable alarm.” In an op-ed for Asia Times Online, he explored why China believes Japan’s existing nuclear material stockpiles are “far exceeding… [the] normal needs” of a civilian nuclear energy program and a non-nuclear weapon state. He made a similar case in a recent article for The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

In the Asia Times Online op-ed, Hui, who is also a senior scholar at Harvard University’s Project on Managing the Atom, urged Tokyo to “address concerns over its reprocessing plans and plutonium stocks,” including “specific steps to abide strictly by its ‘no surplus plutonium policy'” or else risk “negative consequences for regional security in Asia.” (more…)

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Voting for Order

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) victory in India’s general election was hailed as a critical juncture for the country’s economy – some going as far as to state that it ‘remakes our world.’ While predicting the future of India’s may be an invigorating task, we should take notice of the more immediate implications of these elections: the installment as Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy of a man with murky links to an anti-Muslim pogrom.

For those not familiar with the events, a brief explanation is called upon here. In September 2001, the ruling BJP in the western state of Gujarat suffered a twin defeat in a crucial by-election. Faced with an impending defeat, the party leadership called upon Narendra Modi, a life-long member of the Rashtriya Samyamsevak Sangh (a paramilitary Hindu nationalist organization), to take over the post of Chief Minister. Then, in February 2002, 58 Hindu pilgrims were killed inside a burning train in the Gujarati town of Godhra after an altercation with Muslims. While responsibility for the train fire remains intensely disputed, Modi supported the nationalists’ call for an unconstitutional general strike and ordered the dead bodies to be brought to Gujarat’s capital Ahmedabad, where they were displayed publicly.

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