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Mongolia’s Nuclear-Weapon-Free Status and the
Spirit of Article 9 of Japanese Constitution

July 2007

By Ambassador J. Enkhsaikhan 
Blue Banner


The issue of whether Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution should be amended or not, if yes what should be the gist of the amendment and what would be its long-term effects on Japan and other States, especially the North-East Asian States, is quite high on the political agenda of today’s Japan. Judging from the press reports and personal contacts, no one in Japan, it seems, is indifferent to this issue. Because of Japan’s past, present and future role in the world, the issue of Article 9 is of great international importance, even though in the end it is going to be the Japanese people or their elected representatives that would make the ultimate decision.

I have been asked to share my views on Mongolia’s unilateral initiative that, like Japan’s Constitutional Article 9, may have broader impact way beyond Mongolia itself. Like Article 9, Mongolia’s nuclear-weapon-free status is a conflict prevention measure and a deterrent against possible pressures from the outside powers to take sides in great power rivalry and geopolitics. Like Article 9, Mongolia’s nuclear-weapon-free status would clearly define its foreign policy objectives, and is intended to prevent future misunderstandings and resulting policies.
Tortuous road to independent foreign policy

Mongolia has a glorious history. Last year our people celebrated 800th anniversary of the establishment of the united Mongol State which subsequently established the largest land Empire that the world has ever known. In XIV-XV centuries, when the Empire gradually disintegrated, Mongolia was caught between expanding imperial Russia and China. Since the end of XIX century it has been trying to regain its lost independence. The entire XX century witnessed Mongolia’s struggle for its international recognition as an independent State and exercise its full sovereignty. In the XX century alone Mongolia was a sphere of influence, a satellite State, object of aggression and a military base of a nuclear power. The presence of Soviet troops and military bases in Mongolia during the Sino-Soviet dispute between 1960s and end of 1980’s turned it from a buffer into a possible springboard of offensive actions or possible target of retaliatory actions. During these two cold wars, Mongolia could not wish for a neutral foreign policy, since the principle that was applied rigorously at that time was “either you are with us or against us. No middle (neutral) ground”.

These rigorous conditions began to change at the end of 1980s, when Sino-Soviet relations began to normalize and the United States in its turn established diplomatic relations with Mongolia. The disintegration of the Soviet bloc followed by of the Soviet Union itself, and the end of the Cold War provided an opportunity for Mongolia, like for some other countries, to free itself from the Soviet domination and redefine its vital national interests as well as formulate its national security and foreign policy concepts based on those interests.

Basic principles and the gist of new foreign policy

Thus Mongolia declared that its foreign policy objectives would in the future be ensuring its independence and sovereignty by following the natural trends of human advancement, and not undergoing social experimentation, and that it would pursue an open, non-aligned foreign policy and avoid, unlike in the past, becoming overtly reliant on any one country or group of countries for its security and development. It declared that it would give priority to safeguarding its vital national interests primarily by political and diplomatic means and creating a favorable external environment for its economic development and social advancement.

a) relations with Russia and China

Mindful of its geographical location and historical experience, Mongolia declared that it’s priority would still be relations with the immediate neighbors – Russia and China, that it would not toe the line of anyone of them, but rather maintain a balanced relationship and develop all-round good-neighborly cooperation with both of them. It declared that maintaining a balanced relationship would not mean keeping mechanical equidistance from them or taking identical positions on all issues, and that it would strengthen trust and develop good-neighborly relations with both of them. It was stated that when dealing with the neighbors, due account would be taken of their policies in regard to Mongolia’s national interests, above all its vital interests. It was also specifically underlined that a policy of non-involvement and neutrality would be pursued in relation to the disputes that might arise in the future between the two neighbors, unless the latter directly affected Mongolia’s national interests. In the latter case it would, naturally, follow its vital interests. Both neighbors welcomed this policy.

b) first steps towards active neutrality

The strength of Mongolia’s policy of neutrality with respect to the future Sino-Russian disputes lies in the fact that it coincides with the declared policies of the latter. Thus in early 1990’s both Russia and China pledged officially not to use territories of their neighbors against each other. On its part, when Mongolia concluded treaties of friendly relations and cooperation with Russia (in 1993) and China (in 1994), it pledged not to allow other countries to use Mongolia’s territory or airspace against interests of third countries, meaning first of all against the immediate neighbors.

These commitments and Soviet/Russian troop withdrawal from Mongolia led it to declare its territory a nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ) as an important part of its security policy and essential means of ensuring its neutrality in future Sino-Russian disputes. This policy enjoys a wide support not only of the neighbors, but also of the region and the world. Thus in 1998 the United Nations General Assembly [1] welcomed Mongolia’s active and positive role in developing peaceful, friendly and mutually beneficial relations with the States of the region and expressed support for its good-neighborly and balanced relationship with the neighbors as “an important element of strengthening regional peace, security and stability” [2].
c) other priorities of foreign policy

The second priority of Mongolia’s new foreign policy is to develop friendly relations with industrialized developed countries of the West and the East. The third strategic direction is to promote relations and strengthen its positions in Asia, and especially become part of the North-East Asian region. Overall, it openly declared that it would pursue a non-aligned policy as long as it did not threaten the country’s national vital interests.

Emerging relations in the post cold war Asia

After the end of the Cold War the bi-polar world has turned into a uni-polar one. The U.S. is the sole superpower, whose influence and weight is being felt everywhere. As events since 2003 clearly demonstrate, this uni-polar world cannot be sustained any longer. New regional powers are on the rise that are not only questioning the uni-polarity of the world, but would soon be trying to redraw the political and economic map, re-distribute power and influence and, naturally, would vie for regional influence and dominance. This will surely lead to open competition, rivalry and even discord among influential and emerging powers. Ascendance of China as the most vibrant and potential pre-eminent economic, political and military power is one of the clearest emerging realities of today’s Asia. The main debate about China is how much longer would it be a status quo power, and whether or when would it use its growing economic, political and military power to assert its territorial and historical claims.

However China is not the only rising power in Asia. There are other traditional and newly emerging regional powers, such as Japan, the Republic of Korea, Indonesia, India and Russia that are pursuing their policies to partially accommodate to the Chinese where necessary and compete where and when they can. There is also a growing competition among them.

Need for broader neutrality policy

In this dual policy of cooperation and competition, and emerging manifestations of neo-cold war and collusion of strategic and economic interests of the major and emerging powers in Asia, smaller countries, just like during the Cold War, would soon be expected to take sides. Thus in Mongolia’s case it would soon be expected to follow either Russia (where most of its economic and energy interests lie, and which does not harbor territorial claims over Mongolia), China (where its trade, economic, investment and trade infrastructure interests lie most), Japan (where its technology and possible investment are most welcome), the Republic of Korea (whose trade, technology and medium-size investment interests are also welcome, and where thousands of Mongolian immigrant workers bring in hard currency to Mongolia) or the United States (the world’s foremost power whose democratic values Mongolians share) or join a coalition of States with clearly defined rules of agreed conduct that would emerge in North-East Asia. 

Therefore in the wake of rising regional power rivalry, Mongolia’s policy of implied neutrality and non-involvement in Sino-Russian disputes needs to be formally expanded to embrace its relations with other powers. Mongolia’s national interests and the emerging realities of competition and confrontation among Asian powers demand that Mongolia maintain good-neighborly relations with all of them and thus pursue a policy of active (not implied) neutrality, which would be understood and accepted by all the major powers. Mongolia does not want an Asian version of “national missile defense” dispute that is currently developing in Eastern Europe between the U.S. and Russia, or any other dispute coming from the Mongolian territory of its policy. An internationally recognized active neutrality policy that would rule out great power dispute over its policy choices could be best defined and reflected in its emerging nuclear-weapon-free policy.

Essence of single-State NWFZ status

Mongolia’s single-State NWFZ policy in its essence is an expression of its rejection of nuclear policies of great powers and of nuclear proliferation, and at the same time it is a vivid manifestation of its desire for neutrality and non-involvement in nuclear power rivalries of not only Russia and China, but of all nuclear-weapon States. When Mongolia’s single-State NWFZ status is internationally recognized and legally guaranteed, it would in fact embody its internationally accepted regime with the benefits that come with NWFZ status, namely legally based security assurances, more rigid than NPT verification regime and support in peaceful uses of the achievements of nuclear science. As such, it could also serve as an example for some other States that due to their geographical or geopolitical location cannot form part of traditional (i.e. group) NWFZs. 
Mongolia’s NWFZ status – an important part of it security policy

The right of any country to pursue its security without undermining that of others is a well recognized right. That applies to nuclear security issues as well. Mongolia is not the only State that cannot form part of traditional zones. There are other States as well that due to their geographical or geo-political location, or for political or other reason cannot form part of traditional zones. Such countries like Nepal, Afghanistan, Austria, Cyprus, Iceland, Ukraine, Byelorussia, Malta, Armenia, Moldova, Japan or even the two Koreas have difficulties in forming part of traditional zones.
In order to institutionalize its single-State NWFZ status at the national level, in February 2000 the State Great Hural (parliament) of Mongolia adopted a special law defining the country’s status. That prompted the five nuclear-weapon States (the P5) to agree to provide Mongolia with joint security assurances. Thus in October 2000 they made a joint statement providing security assurances to Mongolia which underlined that the assurances that they were providing to NPT non-nuclear States would apply to Mongolia, to which it declared that political assurances would not suffice to institutionalize Mongolia’s status and that the status needed to be internationally defined and legally based as in the case of other NWFZs.

Sapporo recommendations

On the initiative of UN Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, the non-governmental experts of the P5, Mongolia and a representative of the United Nations met in September 2001 in Sapporo to address the international aspects of Mongolia’s status and recommended that Mongolia conclude a treaty either with its two neighbors, or with all P5 legally defining its status. On the basis of the Sapporo recommendations, the Mongolian side has approached its two neighbors with the proposal to conclude such a treaty, to which the latter have agreed in principle.

The aforementioned trilateral treaty should, in my view, clearly define the obligations of Mongolia, of Russia and China as neighboring and as nuclear-weapon States and the mechanism to oversee the implementation of the treaty so as to ensure full compliance with its provisions. The other three nuclear-weapon States could be asked to provide assistance in the full implementation of the provisions of the treaty.

Possible interim uses of single-State NWFZ

Today no one doubts that the situation in Northeast Asia and relations among the States of the region are of great importance not only for the region itself but for world peace, security and stability as a whole. At the same time it is still the region that lacks collective security arrangement or mechanism. That is why bilateral and trilateral relations, especially among the great powers, are still seen as bedrocks of peace and stability. At the same time there is a search underway for an appropriate regional security arrangement that would serve as the basis of stability and security cooperation of the States of the region.

There are many ideas and proposals in this regard, starting from developing a permanent dialogue mechanism at the governmental level on non-political and non-controversial issues to promoting regional confidence-building and security cooperation to establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ) in the region. With regard to the latter, there are today a number of un-official proposals to create such a zone, for example, on the basis of the “3 + 3” formula, meaning two Koreas, Japan plus U.S., China and Russia [3]. There is also a proposal to create a “limited” NWFZ, which would include some parts of nuclear China, Russia and the United States. [4] There are other concrete proposals that are being floated as well. [5]

It is clear that one of the most immediate challenges in establishing a regional NWFZ is denuclearization of the Koran peninsula. It would be impossible to create conditions for serious multilateral negotiations to establish a NEA-NWFZ without successfully addressing this issue. The Six-Party Talks underway seems to be more productive than earlier attempts, though there is still no guarantee that the implementation of the joint statement of the Six-Party Talks of September 2005 and the concrete time-bound agreement of 13 February 2007 would go smoothly and within the agreed time-frame. Since it is the only inter-governmental mechanism that is trying to address, if not solve, the Korean nuclear and some other related issue, and it needs to be supported in every way, both at the governmental and non-governmental levels.

The issues of denuclearization of the entire Northeast Asia are numerous and all inter-connected. The hard issues of confidence-building, of the nuclear umbrella, security assurances, DPRK’s return to NPT, future role of the NPT and IAEA, Japan’s surplus plutonium issue, etc., need to be addressed. Therefore it is clear that NEA-NWFZ cannot be established quickly and easily, and that intermediate measures and steps might be required that would address the “hard core” issues and at the same time promote confidence among the parties to the talks.

Leveling of the playing field

The negotiating playing field of the States of the region are different. In order to come to a lasting agreement, the playing field needs to be leveled. One such measure could be establishment of separate ad hoc single-State NWFZs by some of the countries of the region, which would allow them to leave the nuclear umbrella and at the same time be provided with the needed security assurances that are usually provided by the P5 to NWFZs (until a full-fledged regional NEA-NWFZ is established). On the other hand the party that is not under any nuclear umbrella could also be provided with general security assurances as an ad hoc single-State NWFZ, that could perhaps include assurances from use or threat of nuclear weapons as well as conventional force. This way the parties could level the playing field and promote confidence that is needed for successfully negotiating a NEA-NWFZ treaty.

Role of CSOs

In the absence of governmental initiatives to establish a NEA-NWFZ, it is important that civil society organizations (CSOs) of the States of the region work both with their own governments to induce them to be more forthcoming as well as among themselves to propose bold, yet reasonable ideas that could help bring closer the positions of States or find “out of the box” solutions. Thus for example the model NEA-NWFZ treaty that has been drafted by Dr. Umebayashi of Peace Depot or the “Key Elements of the NEA-NWFZ” proposed by Prof. Kaneko could serve as the basis for starting discussion on the NEA-NWFZ treaty. The June regional meeting held in Mongolia [6] has decided to promote the idea for holding a North-East Asian experts’ meeting to discuss the possible content of the treaty as well as ways and means of promoting this issue at the regional and international level. This initiative of North-East Asian regional CSOs needs to be supported. One cannot rule out that practical ideas and suggestions that could emerge from the experts’ meeting could mark the beginning of a regional process with the participation of governments parties to the Six-Party Talks and others that could end up with the establishment of a NEA-NWFZ. The examples f the International Campaign to Ban Landmines that marked the breakthrough in prohibiting the use of landmines or of the International Coalition for the International Criminal Court that was so instrumental in successfully negotiating the Rome Statute as a clear testimony of how CSOs can sometimes move the stalled inter-State processes.

Some concluding thoughts

In this article I tried to demonstrate on Mongolia’s example that even unilateral, seemingly isolated, acts of States, if they conform to the genuine interests of peoples and States, can serve as both effective confidence-building as well as security enhancing measures. Constructive unilateral measures usually evoke positive international reaction that can set in motion international process leading to concrete positive results. They can even set in motion new trends that over time can serve the interests of the international community as a whole.
Mongolia’s case also demonstrates that nuclear security of States do not have to be ensured by nuclear umbrella of a nuclear-weapon State, but can be promoted and ensured by pursuing collective or common security. The emerging network of NWFZs, both regional and single-State, holds an important key for non-nuclear-weapon States to play such an active role.

Compared to Mongolia, Japan is an important world player. Its policies, especially in regard to war and peace, security and non-proliferation, can have a profound international impact. Retaining Japan’s constitutional Article 9, developing further the three non-nuclear principles would surely conform to the genuine aspirations of peace-loving peoples and would demonstrate that Japan is well fit to express their genuine aspirations and thus serve as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. This policy would serve better the interests of Japanese people rather than amending Article 9 and breaking its peace tradition, and raising unnecessary suspicion.

1 See United Nations General Assembly resolution 53/77 D adopted on 4 December 1998 2 Ibid. 3 Developed by Dr. Hiromichi Umebayashi, President of Peace Depot. 4 Developed by 5 Thus proposals by Prof. Kumao Kaneko (Japan) as reflected in his “Key elements of the draft treaty on NEA-NWFZ” or a tripartite NWFZ (TNWZ) proposed by Seongwhun Cheon and Tatsujiro Suzuki, etc. 6 IPPNW/North Asia meeting was held on 21-22 June in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and the main agenda item was promotion of establishment of NEA-NWFZ.
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