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HOME  > Past issues  > 2008 November 19 - 25  > Stop cluster munitions holders’ attempt to maintain their munitions
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2008 November 19 - 25 [WORLD]

Stop cluster munitions holders’ attempt to maintain their munitions

November 21, 2008
Akahata editorial

A meeting of governmental experts and a CCW (Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons) governmental group meeting ended last week without producing any consensus on restricting the production and use of cluster bombs.

They failed because of opposition raised by the United States and other countries that have cluster munitions in their arsenals. Although the CCW members say that they will resume the discussion next year, banning cluster munitions is a task that must be fulfilled swiftly. Norway and some other countries forming a coalition concluded in May a separate treaty, the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), outside the CCW treaty process. The CCM is set for signature on December 3 in Oslo, Norway. It is important for countries to sign the CCM and increase the number of signatories.

Opposition to calls for ‘exceptions’ is growing

The aim of the CCM is to outlaw the use, development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, and possession of cluster munitions. The United States and some other countries do not participate in it. Even though the CCM added “exceptions” as a result of pressure from some cluster munitions countries, cluster-like weapons are permitted that contain no more than nine explosive submunitions. Under the CCM such weapons must be designed to detect and engage a single target and be equipped with an electronic self-destruct mechanism and an electronic self-deactivating feature. With this act, most cluster munitions can be eliminated.

Nevertheless, the United States and other countries possessing cluster munitions attempted to create many “exceptions” to restrictive provisions at the governmental experts’ meeting, the aim apparently being to not restrict the production and use of cluster munitions. The chairman’s draft, which was proposed in line with the U.S. demand, proves it. Even the Japanese Foreign Ministry has said that the “exceptions” put forward by the chairman are more moderate than the “exceptions” stated in the CCM.

The crux of the U.S. policy on cluster munitions is that such weapons should be permitted if no more than one percent of submunitions remain unexploded after dispersal. It allows the existing munitions to be transferred up till 2018. It also says damage to civilians can be decreased if unexploded submunitions are under control so that they do not explode on their way.

It is dangerous to permit “no more than one percent of submunitions”. There are munitions that contain 200 submunitions or more. If thousands of tens of thousands of such munitions are dropped, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of such munitions will be scattered. If children and working civilians on the ground mistakenly pick them up, or if they step on them, they will be killed or seriously wounded. We must not accept the selfish demand raised by the cluster munitions possessing countries.

It is natural that countries making efforts to prohibit cluster munitions strongly opposed the U.S. move to undermine the gains of the CCM. The cluster munitions possessing countries should stop attempting to maintain cluster weapons and support the CCM, which has been achieved by the international community.

It’s time to totally ban cluster munitions

The Japanese government has a heavy responsibility on this question. While promising that it will sign the CCM, it is actually giving a helping hand to the preservation of cluster munitions. At the meeting of the CCW member countries, only Japan supported the new U.S. position on cluster weapons. What is more, it is even requesting 7.3 billion yen in the national budget for the next fiscal year in order to procure new cluster munitions in exchange for disposing of existing ones. This is incompatible with signing the CCM.

The Japanese government, which has promised to sign the treaty, should give up the plan to procure new cluster munitions and take a lead in the international effort to outlaw cluster bombs.
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